NEWARK, NJ — New Jersey Devils defenseman PK Subban addressed an incident Sunday night involving an alleged racist taunt aimed at his brother, Jordan Subban, during a minor league game on Saturday in Florida.
The East Coast Hockey League has suspended Jacksonville Icemen defenseman Jacob Panetta indefinitely, pending a hearing, for what Jordan Subban, a black defenseman for the South Carolina Stingrays, called a racist taunt. The Icemen later announced that they had released Panetta.
PK Subban, in his 13th NHL season, spoke to reporters after the Devils’ 3-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings. He had posted a series of social media posts earlier in the day regarding the incident, but his post-match press conference featured his first in-person comments.
“I haven’t slept much,” he said, referring to Saturday night when he heard the news after the Devils defeated the Carolina Hurricanes, 7-4, in Newark. “Sheer disappointment. It’s unpleasant. There’s no room for that in our game. I’m embarrassed because our game is better than that.”
The ECHL game was in overtime when South Carolina’s Andrew Cherniwchan collided with Jacksonville goaltender Justin Kapelmaster, sparking a skirmish between the teams. According to Jordan Subban, he attempted to engage Panetta in a fight. Panetta responded by mocking him.
“As soon as I started to turn my back on him he started making monkey gestures at me so I punched him in the face several times and he tortured himself like the coward he is,” tweeted Jordan Subban.
The two fought while surrounded by players from both teams. They received major penalties and misconduct penalties that sent them back to their locker room. Jordan Subban’s teammate Nico Blachman came off the Stingrays bench to hit Panetta and was also given a game misconduct.
Stingrays team president Rob Concannon said in a statement that his organization was “appalled by the incident.”
Jacksonville won the game 1-0 on a power play goal in overtime. The Icemen are a minor league affiliate of the New York Rangers. The Stingrays are an affiliate of the Washington Capitals.
“Our organization supports our friend and teammate, Jordan, and all other players who continue to face racism and discrimination,” Concannon said. “This behavior is unacceptable and must stop.”
PK Subban agrees. Speaking emotionally after playing 22 minutes in the Devils’ home loss, the veteran defender called for change and hoped the incident was enough to bring about real change.
“I’d rather people focus on how we can change it and make it better, so the next kid who looks like PK Subban or Jordan Subban doesn’t have to go through that,” he said.
PK Subban, who has another brother in the sport, Buffalo Sabers goaltender Malcolm Subban, said he had a conversation this morning with his family.
“What I think about are the great people and the great things about our game that I love,” he said. “But the unfortunate thing is not just the incident. The unfortunate thing is the number of children who face this every day and it is not disclosed.”
The Subbans grew up playing in Toronto. PK is 32, Malcolm is 28 and Jordan is 26.
“I think the most important thing I can say about our family is that we don’t need anyone’s pity,” PK Subban said. “I didn’t need it when I was 5, I didn’t need it when I was 10, I didn’t need it when I was playing junior hockey and my brothers didn’t have it. need.
“We don’t need anyone’s pity. No one felt sorry for us when we went through our experiences growing up. We don’t expect anyone to feel sorry, and we don’t expect anyone to feel sorry for us. anyone really understands that it’s not black. If you’re not black, you’re not going to understand that, and that’s okay.”
Panetta posted a video to Twitter on Sunday that read, “Racism has no place in this world and has no place in the game we love.” Panetta said he told Jordan Subban ‘You’re only tough when the referees get involved’ and then ‘made a tough bodybuilder type gesture towards him’ which Panetta said he did to others players in other games.
“My actions towards Jordan were not because of race and were not intended as a racial gesture,” he said. “I hadn’t considered at the time that it would be seen as a racial gesture, and I tried to convey that to Jordan when we were sent to the locker room during the game.
“I see now from Jordan’s reaction that he and others certainly viewed it as a racial gesture, and that my actions caused a lot of anger… I want to say to everyone, especially Jordan, that my actions were not racially motivated at all, and I sincerely apologize for the pain, suffering and anger my actions have caused him, his family and all who care been injured.”
The incident comes a day after the American Hockey League suspended San Jose Barracuda forward Krystof Hrabik for 30 games after he made a racist gesture towards Boko Imama of the Tucson Roadrunners during a game on the 12th. January. Hrabik mimicked the movements of a monkey in a taunt that was aimed at Imama, who is black.
Hrabik will have the opportunity to participate in a practice with the NHL’s Player Inclusion Committee, of which PK Subban is co-chair, to reduce his suspension. He can ask the AHL to return to the club after missing 21 games, and a decision will be “based on an assessment of his progress in the necessary education and training” with the Player Inclusion Committee.
Both incidents continue a trend of racist taunts in professional hockey. In 2021, Andrei Deniskin of the Ukrainian Hockey League mimed peeling and eating a banana in the direction of Jalen Smereck, who is black. Deniskin was suspended for 13 games.
Smereck reacted to the Jordan Subban incident on Instagram, writing, “It’s the first month of 2022 and there have already been two racial gestures in the second and third highest leagues in North America. Just think the number of gestures that occur at the youth level for young children that we don’t see or know about because the game isn’t recorded.”
And PK Subban added to that thought.
“For us, it’s life. It’s life for us, and that’s what’s sad,” he said. “It’s the life of people who look like me and who have experienced hockey. And that’s part of the story, whether we like it or not.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.