By David Close, CNN
Updated: Tue, 08 Feb 2022 22:04:20 GMT
The American Hockey League (AHL) on Friday suspended San Jose Barracuda forward Krystof Hrabik for 30 games for directing a racist gesture toward Boko Imama of the Tucson Roadrunners during a game earlier this month.
Multiple reports describe Hrabik imitating monkey-like movements in the direction of Imama, who is Black, during a January 12 game in San Jose, California. A spokesman for the AHL told CNN that the reporting of the gesture is accurate.
"The AHL believes that individual inclusion learning is a key element of improving league-wide culture," said the league in a statement. "As such, as part of his suspension, Hrabik will be provided the opportunity to work with the National Hockey League's Player Inclusion Committee to participate in education and training on racism and inclusion."
The AHL is the developmental professional league for the National Hockey League (NHL).
Hrabik, 22, is a Czech Republic national in his second year with the San Jose Sharks' minor league affiliate. He would be eligible to return to play on April 3, according to the AHL's website.
"People should know that I had absolutely no inappropriate intent. The gesture was made in the heat of battle and while I didn't mean anything racist by what I did, I realize now through my own ignorance how my gesture could be interpreted," Hrabik said in a statement obtained by Elliotte Friedman of Canadian station Sportsnet. "I fully accept the consequences of my actions and am not appealing the discipline imposed by the AHL."
CNN has been unable to reach out to Hrabik for comment. Imama, 25, was drafted 180th overall in 2015 by the Tampa Bay Lightning. He spent four years with the Los Angeles Kings franchise before signing with the Arizona Coyotes' AHL affiliate in Tucson last summer.
"Even though I honestly believe the sport has made positive strides, WE still have a long way to go to educate the ignorant and to make hockey a safe place for everyone," Imama said on Twitter. "My hope is that people learn from this and that some day hockey will truly be for everyone."
The Barracuda said it and the Sharks "were appalled to learn of this incident."
"We offer our sincerest apologies to Boko, the Roadrunners organization, the AHL, our fans, and the entire hockey community," they said in a statement.