“I feel bad about it. It’s not the way I wanted to handle that. It’s an emotional game, and obviously I’m an emotional player,” Domi said at Canadiens camp on Friday. “I’ve known Aaron for a long time. Grew up playing against each other. We always play hard, always battle, whether it was in minor hockey, junior, the national level and now in the NHL.
“By no means did I want to hurt him. I feel bad about it, and I hope he’s OK. But you know what? I’ve got to suffer the consequences of it. It’s unfortunate, but it is what it is, and I definitely respect the league’s decision.”
Ekblad, however, wasn’t in an understanding mood. The 22-year-old defenseman sported two black eyes after the punch.
“I think he’s stupid for doing it. In the end, it’s hockey. That’s the way it goes. Scores will get settled at a later date,” Ekblad said at Panthers training camp on Friday, via the team.
The incident occurred during a preseason game on Wednesday night. Ekblad delivered a slash to Domi’s stick. Domi tugged at Ekblad’s jersey in an effort to get him to fight. Ekblad refused the invitation, and Domi dropped his glove and punched him twice in the face.
Domi was assessed a match penalty as well as a minor penalty for roughing. The NHL suspended Domi, whom Montreal acquired in the offseason from the Arizona Coyotes for center Alex Galchenyuk, for the rest of the preseason, but the punishment does not carry over to the regular season.
“It looked like Max was frustrated. Obviously he wasn’t doing much in the game. He thought it was the right way to take care of something. I’m not sure what there was to take care of, considering I really didn’t do much on the ice – floating around on the ice, trying to find my legs. That’s what you do in the preseason,” said Ekblad.
Ekblad wasn’t satisfied with the suspension.
“It’s kind of a gift. … I don’t want to comment too much on the league’s decision, but I think it’s wrong. That’s life, though. They’re going to make false judgements, I guess. That’s the way it is,” Ekblad said.
Domi said if retribution is attempted when the Canadiens and Panthers meet during the regular season, “that’s hockey. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”