Montreal Canadiens forward Max Domi has been suspended for the remainder of the preseason for punching an unsuspecting Aaron Ekblad of the Florida Panthers during Wednesday night's exhibition game between the teams, NHL Player Safety announced on Thursday.
The league issued a video statement on the ruling:
Domi attempted to get Ekblad to drop the gloves by grabbing the defender's sweater and delivering a couple of left-handed blows. When Ekblad refrained from fighting, though, Domi didn't move on—he instead dropped his right glove and delivered a punch to the blueliner's face.
According to The Athletic's Arpon Basu, Ekblad—who has a history of concussions—was removed from the game to be evaluated for a concussion. He cleared concussion protocol.
That move did not sit well with the Panthers.
"I'm sure the league will look at it, and we definitely won't forget about it," Florida goaltender Roberto Luongo said, according to the Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com). "You don't do that. You respect your opponents, and if your opponent doesn't want to engage in a fight, there's no reason to drop your glove and punch him square in the face. Bit of a gutless play. You don't do those types of things."
Luongo was not alone in his anger, either.
"It was a punk move by him," Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle said, per Basu. "I know Max, he plays the game hard, but that's just something. ... He said he asked him to go and Ek in the video had no interest in fighting. It's a preseason game, it's our first game trying to get familiar with each other. Even in the regular season, a play like that's not good for anyone."
Meanwhile, at least one Montreal player defended Domi.
"The two were arguing with one another," Canadiens forward Jonathan Drouin said, per the AP (via ESPN.com). "I saw a pretty big slash from Ekblad on Max, and Max just took matters into his own hands. It's also Ekblad's fault for not protecting himself."
The league agreed with the Panthers, issuing a ban for the rest of the preseason. The suspension does not carry over into the regular season.
Montreal acquired Domi from the Arizona Coyotes in June for Alex Galchenyuk, later signing him to a two-year deal. Domi, 23, tallied nine goals and 36 assists for 45 points in Arizona last season, racking up a career-high 73 penalty minutes.