The Ligue Nord-Américaine de Hockey (LNAH) announced on Tuesday that Jonathan Diaby of the Jonquière Marquis has been suspended 10 games for his actions during a game against Les Pétroliers du Nord at the Colisée de Laval on Nov. 8.
With the score tied at three midway through the third period, a scrum broke out between the two teams and Diaby was handed a minor penalty for roughing. By the standards of the LNAH — a low-level professional hockey league in Quebec that is better known for its scraps than skill — the skirmish was barely worth mentioning.
It was once Diaby — a black hockey player — entered the penalty box that the fireworks began to explode.
He immediately got into a shouting match with a fan situated on the other side of the box’s glass. Considering what happened next, it’s likely safe to assume that the fan was a supporter of the home side.
After the two yelled at each other for a few seconds, something appeared to set Diaby off. The 24-year-old climbed up the walls of the box and began swinging at the fan, who was more than willing to engage.
The game’s officials quickly reacted to the situation before players from both teams gathered around. Diaby’s teammates attempted to pull him down and eventually got him back into the penalty box.
Diaby wasn’t done with that fan, though. Shortly thereafter, he grabbed a water bottle and began squirting its contents at the audience on the other side of the glass.
After being slapped with a gross misconduct, Diaby had a chorus of boos rain down on him as he skated across the ice to his team’s dressing room.
“The acts committed discredit the image of the LNAH,” read a translated statement provided by the league on Tuesday, according to TVA Nouvelles. “We all want a circuit with high standards and it is not with such behaviour that the credibility and reputation of the league will increase.
“It's inconceivable that a player will attack a supporter and the LNAH will never condone that kind of behaviour.”
While it hasn’t been confirmed at this time, there have been rumblings online that the fan’s taunts that led to Diaby’s reaction were racial in nature. Diaby made headlines in March when he was the victim of severe racist remarks from opposing fans while playing for the Marquis in Saint-Jérôme, Que.
Those insults — which targeted both him and his family — left Diaby in tears. Although his team was up a goal and there was still a period remaining in the game, he and his family left the arena early that night.
Per TVA Nouvelles, LNAH players and leaders have denounced the actions of the Laval supporters involved at Friday’s game.
Diaby was a third-round pick of the Nashville Predators in the 2013 NHL draft. After bouncing between the AHL and ECHL for three seasons, the native of Blainville, Que. joined the Marquis in 2018.
The LNAH has been called the toughest hockey league in the world. The six teams in the loop — all chalk-full of enforcers — each play a 36-game schedule that features plenty of on-ice antics and fights.
A New York Times article from 2011 stated that the LNAH’s 2010-11 season averaged 3.2 fights per game.
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