Vancouver Canucks forward Rick Rypien has apologized for confronting a fan during a game in Minnesota last week, calling the incident a "real eye-opener."

“I know what I did was wrong,” said Rypien, who is serving a six-game suspension for the Oct. 19 incident in a game against the Minnesota Wild in St. Paul.

Vowing that a similar incident would never happen again, Rypien said yesterday he was not in a position to debate the length of the suspension, suggesting he had no choice but to accept it.

An irate Rypien grabbed heckling Minnesota fan James Engquist while heading to the dressing room following a confrontation with Wild enforcer Rob Staubitz near the Vancouver bench. The two had fought earlier in the game. In addition to suspending Rypien, a 26-year-old Coleman, Alta., native who is in his sixth pro season, the NHL fined the Canucks $25,000 US.

“It’s a real eye-opener for me, so I think I’m going to come back real strong and better than ever,” Rypien said in his first public comments since the incident occurred. “I think I’m going to be more focused and more determined to play the game that I love the most.”

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has reportedly offered to take Engquist to dinner and provide him with a pair of tickets for another Wild game.

The move came after the fan told a Minnesota newspaper he was contemplating legal action against Rypien for the incident, which lasted a few seconds before Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault and teammate Manny Malhotra quickly intervened.