The American Hockey League on Friday suspended San Jose Barracuda forward Krystof Hrabik for 30 games after he made a racist gesture toward Boko Imama of the Tucson Roadrunners in a Jan. 12 game.
A source told ESPN that Hrabik, 22, imitated the movements of a monkey in a taunt that targeted Imama, who is Black. The taunt was spotted by players on the Roadrunners bench, and Hrabik was confronted on the ice by Tucson's Travis Barron while Imama was held back by a linesman during a stoppage in play.
The AHL became aware of the incident on Jan. 13 and started an investigation, during which Hrabik was removed from all team activities.
Hrabik's suspension includes the three games he missed during the investigation.
"The AHL stands with Boko Imama," AHL president and CEO Scott Howson said in a statement. "It is unfair that any player should be subjected to comments or gestures based on their race; they should be judged only on their ability to perform as a player on the ice, as a teammate in the locker room and as a member of their community."
Hrabik issued a public apology Friday night and said he had already apologized to Imama.
"I am ashamed of today's events and embarrassed by the actions that led to my suspension. I want everyone to know that I'm very sorry for what has occurred and I take full responsibility for my actions," Hrabik said.
"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. I alone am responsible for that, it was terrible, and I make no excuses. When I heard about Boko's reaction to the gesture, I was horrified by what I had done.
"Boko is a player I respect and I am so sorry for putting him through this situation. I sent a personal apology to Boko and sincerely hope that he will forgive me. I also want to apologize to the American Hockey League, the San Jose Barracuda, the Tucson Roadrunners, and to my teammates for my unacceptable actions."
As part of the suspension, Hrabik will be given a chance to work with the NHL's Player Inclusion Committee, which is run by NHL executive Kim Davis and co-chaired by New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban and TNT on-air analyst Anson Carter.
Hrabik will have the opportunity to participate in education and training on racism and inclusion. He can apply to the AHL for reinstatement after missing 21 games, and a decision will be "based on an evaluation of his progress in the necessary education and training" with the Player Inclusion Committee.
The Barracuda and the San Jose Sharks, their NHL parent team, apologized to Imama and "the entire hockey community" in a statement released Friday.
"While we support the ability for individuals to atone and learn from disrespectful incidents in this context, these actions are in direct opposition to the Barracuda and Sharks organizations' values," the team said.
Imama, 25, was drafted 180th overall in 2015 by the Tampa Bay Lightning. The winger spent four years with the Los Angeles Kings' organization before signing with the Arizona Coyotes' AHL affiliate last summer.
This is the second time an AHL player has been suspended for a racial taunt directed at Imama. In January 2020, defenseman Brandon Manning of the Bakersfield Condors was suspended five games for using a racial slur toward Imama.
In 2021, Imama spoke about racism in hockey after an incident in the Ukrainian Hockey League in which Andrei Deniskin pantomimed peeling and eating a banana toward Jalen Smereck, who is Black.
"I think it's just hurting the sport because I think if it was more diverse, if everyone was more included, I feel like it would touch a bigger audience and it would just be better for the sport," Imama told the Arizona Republic at the time. "But when things like that happen, it's just unfortunate for everyone."