The Ukrainian Hockey League has suspended HC Kremenchuk forward Andrei Deniskin for a minimum of three games for making a racist gesture at defenseman Jalen Smereck of HC Donbass in a game Sunday. The suspension includes an additional 10 games that Deniskin can avoid serving if he pays a fine.
In the second period of their game, Deniskin shouted at Smereck, who is Black, and then pantomimed unpeeling a banana and eating it. He was ejected from the game, and both the UHL and the International Ice Hockey Federation began a disciplinary process.
Smereck, a 24-year-old Detroit native, took a leave of absence from his team and said, “I will not play another game in the UHL until Andrei Deniskin is suspended and removed from the league.”
According to the UHL, Deniskin must serve the three games. However, he can avoid sitting out the additional 10 games if he pays a fine that’s equivalent to $1,870.
The punishment received immediate backlash from around the hockey world Wednesday morning for being insufficient. The official Donbass account tweeted “$1870 for racism?!” and said, “We demand a reconsideration of the decision.”
The IIHF said before the UHL decision that “we will ensure that all necessary ethics violation investigations occur to ensure that this behavior is sanctioned appropriately,” which could mean additional sanctions against Deniskin for international play. He appeared in five matches for the Ukraine men’s hockey team last season.
Deniskin posted an apology on Instagram, saying it was “a gesture that someone can consider as an insult in race,” that his emotions got the best of him, and that “I respect all people regardless of their race or nationality.” Deniskin appears to have since deleted his account.