Former Ukrainian Hockey League GM Eugene Kolychev.

The saga around Andrei Deniskin’s racist gesture (miming peeling a banana and eating it) towards Jalen Smereck in the Ukrainian Hockey League last week continues, and it’s now led to the removal of that league’s general manager, Eugene Kolychev. Kolychev had been outspoken on Twitter about Deniskin’s behavior, and had said that punishment for Deniskin would have to come from Ice Hockey Federation of Ukraine and International Ice Hockey Federation officials. On Thursday, Kolychev (seen above) tweeted that he had been fired by the league, but that wouldn’t stop him from speaking out against racism and advocating for Smereck (who said on Instagram Tuesday he would be taking a leave of absence from his club until Smereck was “suspended and removed from the league”):

This is just the latest twist in this story. For one thing, Deniskin initially apologized to Smereck on Instagram, but later deleted that post. For another, the punishment for Deniskin was initially and widely reported as a suspension of just three games, with an initial penalty of either 10 games or a fine. And many blasted that, including Smereck’s club:

But, as TSN’s Gord Miller reported Wednesday, the Ukrainian Hockey Federation is now saying their official erred in his announcement of the penalty, and it’s really 13 games and the fine:

That raises questions of if it was actually a mistake, or if the federation later conveniently claimed it was a mistake after the backlash to the mild punishment. At any rate, that’s certainly not the “removed from the league” Smereck was hoping for:


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A post shared by Jalen Smereck (@_jsmereck5)

And it’s fascinating that this saga has now apparently led to the dismissal of Kolychev. And it sure seems like that’s backlash for his criticisms of this incident and calls for more punishment for Deniskin. Here are some of his earlier tweets on that:

Parting ways with Kolychev at this time is a curious move. Firing someone who’s been an outspoken critic of the handling of this incident right now sure makes it seem like Ukrainian hockey officials are trying to bury this story. But doing so at this time and in this way is only going to make it gain more attention. And it’s another bad look for Ukrainian hockey. We’ll see if the IIHF (and Tardif, who was only elected as president five days ago) winds up weighing in on this.

[TSN, Eugene Kolychev on Twitter]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.