A racism incident has gotten the 2021-22 hockey season started on the wrong note.
Hockey fans across the globe are calling for supplementary discipline after a player made a racist gesture in the Ukrainian Hockey League. HC Kremenchuk forward Andrei Deniskin made the gesture towards HC Donbass defenseman Jalen Smereck, who is Black.
The incident occured during Sunday’s game when the two players started going at it. Deniskin yelled at Smereck before mimicking unpeeling a banana and eating it. Densikin was immediately ejected from the game following the gesture.
A disgusting gesture in the UHL was made towards American Jalen Smereck… This is embarrassing and pathetic for hockey. @IIHFHockey needs to step up here. pic.twitter.com/cSqxBKVC4k
— World Hockey Report (@worldhockeyrpt) September 26, 2021
After the video went viral on social media, the hockey community rallied behind Smereck.
Florida Panthers forward Anthony Duclair tweeted, “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.”
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. https://t.co/DX86RzbeCJ
— Anthony Duclair (@aduclair10) September 27, 2021
Former Tampa Bay Lightning forward JT Brown posted, “Respect to @jalen_smereck. The sport is better because of you. I’ve got your back, and I know a lot of other hockey fans do too.”
Respect to @jalen_smereck. The sport is better because of you. I’ve got your back, and I know a lot of other hockey fans do too.
— JT Brown (@JTBrown23) September 26, 2021
Deniskin issued an apology on Instagram following the game, saying “I… showed a gesture that someone might consider as an insult in race. I respect all people regardless of their race or nationality. Emotions in hockey are unfortunately difficult.”
Desnkin’s Instagram page wasn’t publically available at the time of posting. It’s unclear if he deleted his page or it was temporarily taken down by Instagram.
The good news is that the Ukraine Hockey League is investigating the incident and expected to issue supplementary discipline to Deniskin.
HC Donbass said in a statement “Donbass strongly denies all forms of discrimination and is outraged by the behavior of Andrei Deniskin.” The team said that racism “has no place either on sports grounds or outside of them”.
Just when it looks like we’ve moved past these type of incidents, something like this occurs. Just last year in the AHL, Brandon Manning was suspended for using a racial slur towards Boko Imama, who is African American. You might remember back in 2011 when a fan threw a banana on the ice during a shootout attempt for Wayne Simmonds.
We can only hope that the league takes the appropriate action and we don’t see anything else like this during the upcoming hockey season.