You all knew this would be coming eventually, but the Minnesota Wild fan who was grabbed by Vancouver Canucks forward Rick Rypien last night has spoken out about being the focus of the irate player’s attention. If you missed it from last night, Rypien went into the stands to grab a fan who was mock applauding him as he headed to the locker room during the second period of Vancouver’s 6-2 loss to the Wild in Minnesota.
Today, Wild beat reporter Michael Russo was able to get a hold of the fan, 28 year-old James Engquist, to ask him about what happened last night and what, if anything, they plan to do legally-speaking. Suffice to say, a lot of fans are not going to enjoy Engquist’s line of reasoning on matters.
“This is a crazy incident. I’ve seen a lot of hockey in my day, and I’ve never seen someone actually come into the stands and assault a fan,” said Engquist.
Engquist said he is “definitely seeking legal representation. … I was assaulted, that’s just the bottom line.”
Engquist said he didn’t receive an apology from the league, Rypien or the Canucks. He said he hasn’t heard anything from the Wild.
Now, I don’t want to say that Engquist doesn’t have a case to be made here, he does. Opting to pursue it, however, comes off really ugly for the regular fan that saw what went down. By the book “assault” is the correct term, by what you see on camera, however, and by the view of the court of public opinion the fan had his jersey grabbed while team officials grabbed Rypien and Engquist’s brother pulled him back from the fracas.
Filing a law suit on the matter, however, swings the opinion from being strongly against Rypien for crossing the boundary between players and fans to being against Engquist for seemingly ridiculous litigation. Engquist and his brother were moved to different seats along the glass after the incident occurred, giving them a slight upgrade on their seats behind the Canucks bench. Looking to cash in on what was ultimately a scary matter smacks of greed.
All of a sudden, Rick Rypien doesn’t look like the only one behaving badly here. The Wild and Canucks could both help to step in a diffuse the situation by playing the game a bit nicer PR-wise with Engquist and bend over a little backwards for the guy, but ultimately, Engquist going the route of filing a law suit reflects very poorly upon him.
Unfortunately for everyone, this matter isn’t over yet. Rypien is scheduled to meet with NHL officials in New York City on Friday to discuss what his punishment will be. I’m sure the talk of a lawsuit against him and the NHL will be brought up and factored into what his actions have done for everyone involved. Bad PR, in this case, is bad PR for everyone.