Fights are commonplace in the NHL, but the fallout from one that took place during a Thursday preseason game was far worse than a trip to the penalty box. Vancouver Canucks center Zack MacEwen unloaded a barrage of punches on Edmonton Oilers right winger Zack Kassian, causing him to fall head first into the ice without a helmet to soften the blow.
The fight occurred with only a few minutes left in the teams' preseason contest at Rogers Arena, one the Oilers won by a score of 3-2.
Immediately recognizing the severity of Kassian's injury, MacEwan called for medical assistance along with the on-ice officials. The 30-year-old Kassian remained motionless for a few moments, but he eventually was helped to his feet and left the ice.
Edmonton coach Dave Tippett didn't give an official update on Kassian's health, but the 60-year-old said his player is "alright" and will undergo further evaluation the day after the game. Kassian's behavior after the game seems to indicate the injury isn't as bad as it looked, though he did reportedly miss practice Friday.
"He's got a pretty good bump on his head from hitting the ice but he was in good spirits and was telling jokes when I came and saw him after the game," Tippett said of the 10-year NHL veteran after the game. "It's one of those ones that upsets you when that happens."
Tippett and the Oilers weren't the only ones upset by MacEwan's actions. MacEwan's teammate, defenseman Quinn Hughes, described the fight as "scary" and "terrible," adding it "probably didn't need to happen."
Oilers forward Derek Ryan, who's entering his seventh NHL season and first in Edmonton, shares the same perspective as Hughes.
"It was really tough," Ryan said. "I'm a new face around here, but Kass and I have bonded — he's like my brother sitting next to me in the locker room. To see him sitting like that on the ice, yeah, it makes me sick to my stomach. I haven't seen him in the locker room but it sounds like he's doing alright."
Edmonton hopes to have Kassian healthy by Oct. 13, when they open their season at home against the Canucks. The officials will likely have their hands full in controlling the bad blood that seems to have developed between the squads, who will meet for another preseason game on Saturday.