Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.

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Engquist gets call from Commish, displeased with Rypien outcome

Posted by: Michael Russo under Wild news, Wild pregame skate Updated: October 22, 2010 - 3:10 PM

Coming to you from Vancouver, where it's been a three-ring circus today with the Rick Rypien suspension coming down. Not a lot of hockey talk in both locker rooms, but a lot of reaction to the six-game suspension.

Just an fyi, Cam Barker injured his groin last night, so Wild defenseman Clayton Stoner will play for the first time since Finland. He's from Vancouver Island and couldn't get the smile off his face. His parents and a bunch of buddies were at the morning skate. Hometown boy Colton Gillies doesn't look like he's playing, but coach Todd Richards said there's a medical issue with Chuck Kobasew and if he can't play, Gillies will. But Richards thought Kobasew will be fine.

Jose Theodore makes his Wild debut tonight vs. Cory Schneider, who starting consecutive home games in place of Roberto Luongo.

Onto Rypien, I just got off the phone with James Engquist, the fan Rypien physically grabbed. He was honored this morning to get a call from NHL Commisioner Gary Bettman, who offered Engquist tickets to a game and dinner.

"He said, 'Sorry about the events, and players should never ever put their hands on a fan.' He said he'd like to offer me tickets to a game and dinner, and I thought that was very nice of him. I mean, what do you say at that point. You're talking to the Commissioner of the NHL. I thought it was really respectful for him to give me a call. He's a very classy man."

Engquist said he's definitely seeking legal representation after a harrowing few days in which he's been harassed on the Internet, through emails and phone calls.

"It's definitely changed my life. I just think it's in my best interest," he said.

He was disappointed in Rypien's six-game suspension: "In a real-world situation, at my job, at your job as a columnist, if you were do what that person did in your job place, I think minimally what would happen – minimally – you would be fired from your newspaper, your beat writing job. And this is Mr. Rypien’s career, this is his job, he’s being paid to represent the NHL, and they feel to take a two-week break off without pay and come back to work is satisfactory. But as far as the real world goes, that person would be held accountable as far as the law and just as a company in general, that person would probably be fired."

He said he's received no apology from the Canucks or Rypien.

As for the rest of the story:

1) Brad Staubitz denies eye gouging Rypien. Coach Todd Richards, who had a front-row seat, also says it just didn't happen. He only saw a sucker punch. Staubitz said it was a scrum and if he came close to the eyes, it was to face wash him.

2) I talked to Manny Malhotra one-on-one, and he said his opinion is the same as it was the other night: "There’s still those boundaries that should never be crossed even in terms of what’s said in the arena. Often times fans feel that it’s alright to say whatever they feel like just because they paid the admission fee, but there’s still that balance of respecting people on the ice and respecting players as people."

3) Kevin Bieksa said most arenas in the league don't have a lot of separation between fan and player, and there should be more by the visiting bench. He even noted the Canucks' building is similar, and if you saw the picture I put on Twitter, it is. But Bieksa said teams need to do a better job in the middle of the period being ready to pull the overhanging tunnel out if a player is booted.

Rest of the stuff will be in the paper.

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