MOSCOW (Reuters) - The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) will assess the need for harsher sanctions in response to a racist incident in Ukraine and plans to pressure leagues around the world to amend their rule books to define sanctions for racist behaviour, the new IIHF president said.
Luc Tardif took office as head of the IIHF a day before the hockey world was rattled by footage of Andriy Deniskin, a forward at HC Kremenchuk in the Ukrainian Hockey League (UHL), taunting HC Donbass defenceman Jalen Smereck, who is Black, by pretending to peel and eat a banana.
Smereck, 24, took a leave of absence after the incident. HC Donbass announced on Sunday it had reached a mutual agreement to terminate the American's contract.
Tardif, who has dual French-Canadian citizenship, has ordered the IIHF's ethics committee to investigate the incident and assess the 13-game suspension handed to Deniskin by the Ukrainian Ice Hockey Federation, the maximum that could be imposed under its rules.
"Thirteen games, that's a third of the season," Tardif told Reuters in a video conference interview. "That's still a lot, but we don't think it's enough."
If the ethics committee determines that the sanctions against Deniskin are inadequate, it could bring the case to the IIHF's disciplinary board for further action.
"That's where we can add to the sanctions, but only in terms of the competitions under our jurisdiction," Tardif said, referring to international games.
Tardif added he could not be certain that additional sanctions would be imposed, an option left to the disciplinary board's discretion.
"By calling on the ethics committee, this shows that I think we could go further in respect to the sanctions," he said.
"I will let the committees come to a decision, but I don't want to stop there."
TOOLS TO SANCTION
Ukrainian hockey officials have been criticised for what many players, including Toronto Maple Leafs forward Wayne Simmonds, one of the most prominent Black players in the National Hockey League (NHL), consider too lenient a sanction.
Tardif said IIHF officials had analysed the rule books of several national leagues and federations in the wake of the incident. The IIHF realised that many of them did not define clear sanctions for the perpetrators of racist, homophobic and other kinds of discriminatory behaviour.
"We have to put pressure on the federations and the leagues to include sanctions for these types of incidents in their rules," Tardif said.
"We will have to spend the year encouraging federations to introduce a scale of sanctions. If not, they won't have any tools to hand them out."
Tardif planned to contact Smereck, who has said he is determined to prompt change for the next generation of players.
"He needs to feel that things will be changing," Tardif said.
(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Christian Radnedge)