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IIHF condemns racist gesture made by player in Ukrainian league

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PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 17: A view of the practice pucks of the Philadelphia Flyers during warm-ups against the Tampa Bay Lightning on November 17, 2018 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

[UPDATE: The UHL has suspended Deniskin a minimum of three games with a maximum of 13. Smereck has announced he is taking a leave of absence.]

The International Ice Hockey Federation has condemned the actions of HC Kremenchuk forward Andrei Deniskin after he made a racist gesture towards HC Donbass defenseman Jalen Smereck, who is Black.

“The IIHF condemns in the strongest possible terms the actions of Andri Denyskin,” said IIHF president Luc Tardif, who was elected to the position on Saturday. “There is no place for such a blatantly racist and unsportsmanlike gesture in our sport and in society. 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.”

During the second period of Sunday’s Ukrainian Hockey League game, Deniskin pantomimed peeling a banana and eating it after shouting in the direction of Smereck, a 24-year-old former Coyotes prospect from Detroit. Deniskin was ejected.

Afterward, Donbass said they were “outraged by the behavior” and that “racism has no place either on sports grounds or outside of them.”

Kremenchuk posted a statement on Monday condemning “all forms of racial discrimination” and said the team will punish the player. They added that Deniskin will publicly apologize to Smereck.

According to ESPN, in a since-deleted Instagram post, Deniskin apologized, saying it was “a gesture that someone can consider as an insult in race” and “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.”

The UHL said, “Such behavior of hockey players on the court is unacceptable within the framework of a civilized society.”



Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.