Andrei Deniskin, a player for HC Kremenchuk of the Ukrainian Hockey League (UHL), is facing calls for suspension from the sport after he made a racist gesture aimed at Jalen Smereck of HC Donbass, who is black, during a game on Sunday.
A video of the incident, where Deniskin mimics peeling a banana and eating it, has quickly made the rounds on social media, with figures across the ice hockey world making statements condemning the incident.
Deniskin was ejected from the game but that should just be the beginning of his punishment, according to former NHL goaltender and current commentator Kevin Weekes.
He retweeted the video, saying, “hello IIHF and UHL; hoping your decision is minimum 1 year suspension without pay in all league and international competitions. This player’s actions are both hurtful and inexcusable. I eagerly await your appropriate and punitive response.”
Current NHL player, Anthony Dunclair, also added, “am I surprised? No. This is still a huge issue in this game. Can’t wait to hear this punishment, a lot on the line for the future of this game.”
Following the condemnation of the incident online, the General Manager of the UHL, Eugene Kolychev, stated, “being General Manager of the UHL I declare that there is no place for racism in Ukrainian professional hockey. UHL will follow closely the investigation of the Disciplinary Committee in Federation of Hockey in Ukraine into the case of racist abuse aimed at Jalen Smereck.”
The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) also released a statement on Twitter from newly elected President Luc Tardif. The statement read, “the IIHF condemns in the strongest possible terms the actions of Andri Denyskin. There is no place for such a blatantly racist and unsportsmanlike gesture in our sport and in society.”
He continued, “This a direct assault on the ideals and values of our game, and we will ensure that all necessary ethics violation investigations occur to ensure that this behaviour is sanctioned appropriately.”
Deniskin posted a public message to his Instagram account, saying, “I want to express my public apology to the player of the Donbas hockey club Jalen Smerek. During the match ‘Kremenchuk’ - ‘Donbas,’ I, being in negative emotions, showed a gesture that someone can consider as an insult in race. I respect all people regardless of their race or nationality. Emotions in hockey, unfortunately, are different.”
It is unclear when the disciplinary proceedings will finish, or how severe the punishment aimed at Deniskin will be.
Smereck, a 24-year-old from Detroit, Michigan, is playing overseas for the first time after spending five seasons in the minor league system of the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes.