TORONTO - Was it decaf or regular Colombian?
Colby Armstrong doesn’t remember. Or care.
All he knows is that, on one particular night during his junior hockey career, the home crowd in Medicine Hat tossed coffee on he and his Red Deer Rebel teammates who were sitting on the bench.
Hot steaming scalding coffee.
“That crowd in Medicine Hat was the most (unruly) I’ve experienced,” Armstrong said Wednesday.
Being drenched with java is enough to leave any player’s temper bubbling over. But, according to Armstrong, even that is no reason to jostle with a fan like the Vancouver Canucks’ Rick Rypien did Tuesday in Minnesota.
“I think it’s a league rule that you are not allowed to hit fans,” Armstrong said, adding that it is imperative for players to have thick skins when spectators start talking trash.
“I remember going into Philly when I was with Pittsburgh, there were fans chirping at us pretty good. It happens all over the place. They support their teams, they love to go to games and they love to have fun.”
Indeed, at the NHL level, Philadelphia can be a rough place for the opposition. There are times that Troy Crosby, proud poppa of Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby, will not go to see Sid play in The City of Brotherly Loathe because of all the abuse father and son end up taking.
While on the topic of Philly, who can forget the night of March 29, 2001 when hefty Flyers fan Chris Falcone plopped into the penalty box where the Leafs’ Tie Domi was serving a penalty?
“I remember that,” Armstrong said. “If the guy didn’t weigh as much, maybe the glass would not have given out and he wouldn’t have ended up in there.”
In Rypien’s case, he had just stepped off the ice en route to the visitors dressing room at the Xcel Energy Centre in St. Paul when he got into a skirmish with Minnesota Wild fan James Engvist, 28.
“I saw (the incident) this morning,” Maple Leafs defenceman Francois Beauchemin said. “I don’t know what happened or what the fan might have said to him. But there’s no excuse. That’s one thing that’s in the rules — you can’t touch the fans.”
Asked if he ever had been provoked enough to want to touch a fan, the Maple Leafs defenceman replied: “No.”
The NHL announced Wednesday afternoon Rypien has been suspended indefinitely. While the length of his punishment likely will not come down until Rypien has a hearing with league officials, many are speculating that it will be at least five games.
Leafs coach Ron Wilson cautioned that Rypien should not be “tarred and feathered” publicly until the player’s side of the story comes out.
“Everybody’s jumping on the “Let’s hang Rypien” (bandwagon). No one’s heard from him ... so I don’t know what happened. He lost his cool and inevitably he’ll pay for it. I don’t know if the fan said anything. Maybe he just looked at him,” Wilson said.
“Let’s let this poor guy have his day in court.”
Having said that, Wilson did not condone Rypien’s actions.
“There is no excuse for Rypien. There are two things that you are told at the beginning of the season — no hitting or contracting the linesmen and no making contact with the fans.”