UHL levies embarrassingly soft suspension on Deniskin for racist taunt

·2 min read
Ukrainian league forward Andrei Deniskin was handed an absolute joke of a punishment for miming a blatantly racist taunt at Jalen Smereck last week. (Getty)
Ukrainian league forward Andrei Deniskin was handed an absolute joke of a punishment for miming a blatantly racist taunt at Jalen Smereck last week. (Getty)

The punishment for Andrei Deniskin is predictably underwhelming and frankly, wrong.

For miming a blatantly racist taunt at Black HC Donbass forward Jalen Smereck in a professional game in Ukraine over the weekend, Deniskin has been levied what amounts to a 13-game suspension. Deniskin, an HC Kremenchuk forward, received an automatic three-game suspension for the match penalty under the rules of the Ice Hockey Federation of Ukraine, plus an additional 10 games for the racist act specifically. 

Ten games is apparently the maximum allowable suspension in the Ukraine Hockey League, but can be bypassed, apparently, by simply paying a fine. In this case, the amount owed is less than $2000.

It's an embarrassingly soft suspension, and clearly shows the major, major flaws in the low-level league's disciplinary system. Still, if any incident demanded an exception — or a harsher punishment than what's allowable — it was this one. Deniskin miming the unpeeling and eating of a banana in Smereck's direction is as brazen and disgusting an act as many have ever seen in professional sports.

Smereck' team, HC Donbass, called out the league for its decision.

Prior to the ruling, and perhaps anticipating leniency from the UHL and the governing body, Smereck wrote on Instagram that he intends to sit out until Deniskin is "removed from the league." Smereck has not yet commented publicly on Wednesday's ruling. 

A far more appropriate punishment might still be ahead for Deniskin. It's expected that the International Ice Hockey Federation will rule on the incident, and perhaps preclude the 23-year-old forward from representing a Ukraine team looking to qualify for a promotion to the international top division. 

Newly-promoted IIHF president Luc Tardif called for appropriate action in a statement released Tuesday, and now has the opportunity to stand by his assertions:

"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."

Deniskin has appeared in five games for the Ukraine senior team, scoring four goals.

There was an apology from Deniskin, which missed the mark just about as bad as the UHL's ruling. He shared a message on Instagram, stating regret for performing "a gesture that someone can consider as an insult in race."

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