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IIHF gives Andrei Deniskin one-year suspension for racist gesture

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BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 31: The IIHF logo on the corner boards before the 2011 IIHF World U20 Championship game between Slovakia and Finland on December 31, 2010 at HSBC Arena in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

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The International Ice Hockey Federation Disciplinary Board has suspended Andrei Deniskin for one year from all international competitions with Ukraine’s men’s national team following a racist incident during a September Ukrainian Hockey League game.

“Racist gestures, comments or actions have absolutely no place in the game of ice hockey, or anywhere, for that matter,” said IIIHF President Luc Tardif. “Denyskin’s actions are completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated. While he has already served the suspension of thirteen games from his club team’s league play, the Deciding Panel has determined that a further period of suspension is required.”

Deniskin’s suspension comes five months after the HC Kremenchuk forward pantomimed peeling a banana and eating it after shouting at Donbass defenseman Jalen Smereck, who is Black. Deniskin was ejected and given an automatic three-game suspension after being assessed a match penalty. He was later banned for 13 games after a review by the Disciplinary Committee of the Ice Hockey Federation of Ukraine. The added 10 games is the maximum allowable under the league’s Code of Conduct..

Afterward, Deniskin took to Instagram and posted an apology that said his actions were “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.” His account has since been deleted.

Smereck took a leave of absence and said he would not play in the UHL again until Deniskin was removed from the league. He later joined Germany’s Bietigheim Steelers.

Why the long delay in announcing the suspension? According to the IIHF, “The length of time taken for the Board to come to a decision in the Denyskin case was due in large part to the fact that, as required by the new IIHF Council term, a new IIIHF Ethics Board and Disciplinary Board had to be appointed following the IIHF Council elections that took place during the 2021 IIHF Semi-Annual Congress in September.”

The Ice Hockey Federation of Ukraine’s Referee-in-Chief, Maxym Urda, has acknowledged that amendments are needed to ensure harsher punishments are handed out for future incidents like the one involving Deniskin and Smereck.


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