Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Fan not finished with NHL or Rypien

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EDMONTON -- James Engquist couldn't have been more excited to attend Tuesday night's Minnesota Wild game.

A huge hockey fan, Engquist and his brother, Peter, landed tickets as a gift from their father, Tom, placing them directly behind the Vancouver Canucks' bench and along the runway leading to the locker-room.

Little did James know though that he'd soon end up on TV as the reluctant part of the biggest story in the NHL.

"It was definitely a crazy night, that's for sure," said Engquist.

Engquist is the 28-year-old from Mendota Heights, Minn., who was grabbed Tuesday night by enraged Canucks forward Rick Rypien. Rypien, who has been suspended by the NHL pending an in-person hearing with commissioner Gary Bettman in Manhattan on Friday morning, had just gotten into a skirmish by the Wild bench with forward Brad Staubitz. The two combatants also fought in the first period.

Rypien, clearly boiling over, had to be physically dragged to the door of the Canucks' bench by linesman Don Henderson. That's when Rypien turned to exit, spotted Engquist in his Wild jersey, reached up into the stands and grabbed him. Rypien was pulled off of the spectator by a Canucks trainer and coach Alain Vigneault.

"I was just standing straight up applauding as he was getting kicked out," Engquist said. "He was out of control. So then I said, 'Way to be professional,' and he obviously didn't care for that comment and decided to grab me and almost dragged me over the rail.

"If my brother wasn't grabbing me and the other player wasn't grabbing him, he probably would have dragged me over the edge. I understand he got ejected, he got into two fights, he got into a tussle with the ref. But it's no excuse for him being set off and trying to fight me."

Arena security escorted Engquist and his brother away, took a written statement and relocated them to glass seats to the left of the Wild bench. He received applause from the crowd when shown on the Jumbotron and had his face plastered all over the television.

Video of the incident has gone viral on the Internet and is the talk of NHL message boards and Twitter accounts. He's received several calls and texts from friends and media requests.

Engquist said he's received no apology from the NHL, the Canucks or Rypien. He said he is "definitely" seeking legal representation.

"I don't have a lot of experience what outlets I have," he said. "I was assaulted, that's just the bottom line. It's been a long day. It's been a lot of harassment. It was an unfortunate event."

 

-- McClatchy Newspapers

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 21, 2010 C4

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