Following a reprehensible act that has yet to be addressed with any disciplinary action, Jalen Smereck has announced via Instagram that he will be taking a personal leave of absence from his club, HC Donbass of the Ukrainian Hockey League until Andrey Denyskin of HC Kremenchuk is suspended and removed from the league.
The incident occurred in the second period of Sunday’s game between the two clubs, in which during a scrum following a stoppage of play, Denyskin began shouting at Smereck, who is black, and then mimed peeling a banana and eating it. Denyskin was then ejected from the game for the disgusting gesture.
In a since-deleted Instagram post, Denyskin addressed the incident, saying it was “a gesture that someone can consider as an insult in racial affiliation” and that he respects “all people regardless of race or nationality”, claiming ultimately that “emotions in hockey are unfortunately different”.
In the days since the incident took place, both the IIHF and the UHL have publicly condemned Denyskin's racist taunt. In a Twitter statement, IIHF President Luc Tardiff said, “We will ensure that all necessary ethics violation investigations occur to ensure that this behaviour is sanctioned appropriately.”
Smereck also had a call with the UHL’s league office, as he stated to Ken Campbell of Hockey Unfiltered, in which he said he hopes Denyskin’s punishment is severe.
I definitely think he should be done for the year,” Smereck said to Hockey Unfiltered. “For me, I would think his career is pretty much over…(he should be) suspended for this year (from the league) and get a suspension for the rest of his career from Team Ukraine. There’s no way to apologize for that. And even the apology he gave was really bad.”
Numerous prominent hockey players around the NHL have echoed these same sentiments. Recent Stanley Cup champion and Tampa Bay Lightning forward Mathias Joseph took to Twitter to respond to the video, stating that Denyskin should not be “given a chance to play hockey ever again.”
Denyskin has yet to receive any disciplinary action from the UHL or IIHF.