Detroit's Jalen Smereck takes leave of absence after racist gesture in hockey game

The Detroit News

Detroit native Jalen Smereck is taking an indefinite leave of absence after the 24-year-old defenseman with HC Donbass in the Ukraine was the target of a racist gesture on the weekend in the Ukrainian Hockey League.

In an Instagram post on Tuesday, Smereck, a Black player who spent his youth hockey career with Little Caesars, the Oakland Grizzlies and the Flint Firebirds of the Ontario Hockey League, said he "will not play another game in the (UHL) until Andrey Denyskin is suspended and removed from the league."

Jalen Smereck

Denyskin taunted Smereck during a stoppage in play in the second period of Sunday's game between HC Donbass and HC Kremenchuk. 

Denyskin was ejected from the game and was suspended for 13 games by the International Ice Hockey Federation on Wednesday.

The IIHF called Denyskin's actions "a direct assault on the ideals and values of our game."

NHL players reacted after the video of the incident surfaced on social media.

"Am I surprised? No," Florida Panthers forward Anthony Duclair wrote on Twitter. "Can't wait to hear the punishment. A lot on the line for the future of this game."

"I am beyond disgusted," Tampa Bay Lightning forward Mathieu Joseph wrote on Twitter. "Hurts to watch. I cannot wait to hear the suspension."

Jalen Smereck

After three years in the OHL, Smereck signed as a free agent with the Phoenix Coyotes and played three years in the minor leagues, including 16 games with the Tucson Roadrunners in the American Hockey League in 2020-21.

In his first year in the UHL this year, he had one goal and three assists for four points in three games with Donbass.