Smereck's 'heart dropped' when learning of Deniskin's light suspension

Ethan Miller / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Jalen Smereck was shocked to learn the Ukrainian Hockey League suspended Andri Deniskin for only 13 contests after he made a racist gesture toward the defenseman during a game on Sunday.

"My heart just kind of dropped," Smereck told ESPN's Greg Wyshynski on Wednesday.

Deniskin will sit three games for earning a match penalty and 10 more for violating the league's code of conduct, an Ice Hockey Federation of Ukraine official told TSN's Gord Miller on Wednesday afternoon. Deniskin will also pay a fine of 50,000 Ukrainian hryvnia, which amounts to about $1,880 U.S. dollars, or approximately $2,400 Canadian.

"I'm not even looking at this as a suspension. This can't be taken seriously," Smereck said. "You get more games for a cross-check or a stupid hit ... for hockey plays. And this is completely un-hockey-like. It's just a bad thing all around."

Deniskin, a forward for HK Kremenchuk, pretended to peel and eat a banana while directing the taunt toward Smereck - an African American defenseman - during Sunday's game against HC Donbass.

On Wednesday morning, UHL general manager Eugene Kolychev mistakenly announced Deniskin's suspension was for three games, plus either 10 more or the fine. The federation official later clarified to Miller that Kolyshev had erred and the latter punishment was not an "either/or" scenario.

The IIHF can still issue an international suspension, according to Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman. The governing body condemned the incident Monday, pledging to sanction Deniskin appropriately if necessary. Deniskin has represented Ukraine several times, including twice at the World Junior Championship and three times at the under-18 level.

On Tuesday, Smereck said he wouldn't play another game in the UHL until Deniskin "is suspended and removed from the league."

The federation led the investigation into the incident. Donbass called on the federation to reconsider its decision Wednesday.

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Smereck's 'heart dropped' when learning of Deniskin's light suspension
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