The Jacksonville Icemen’s Jacob Panetta, who made an alleged racial taunt in a game, was suspended indefinitely by the ECHL on Sunday pending a hearing. The Icemen then announced they were releasing Panetta, who claimed his gesture was not racially motivated.
"To be clear, our core values as an ownership group include one love and zero tolerance for racism or any other forms of hate against any group whatsoever. The platform that is the Jacksonville Icemen is one that is more than just about hockey to us as a group. It is about using this platform to spread not only our love for hockey but our love for the community and for each other," team CEO Andy Kaufmann said in a news release.
"Though the investigation and review is ongoing at the league level, the Jacksonville Icemen will be releasing the player involved effective immediately and will continue our mission of sharing our love of community and hockey. On behalf of the entire Icemen organization, we apologize to any one who was offended and look forward to beginning the process of healing together as one. Thank you."
The incident Saturday, targeting the South Carolina Stingrays’ Jordan Subban, occurred 23 seconds into overtime at Jacksonville, Florida, where the Icemen won 1-0 with a 27-save shutout by former Komets player Justin Kapelmaster.
As officials tried to separate several players involved in a post-whistle altercation, Panetta made what appeared to be a monkey-like pose directed at Subban.
“As I began to turn my back he started making monkey gestures at me so I punched him in the face multiple times and he turtled like the coward he is,” Subban posted on Twitter.
He is the brother of longtime NHL defenseman P.K. Subban.
Panetta posted an apology on social media, alleging he was making a bodybuilder-like gesture to imply Subban shouldn’t act like a tough guy.
“I see now that from Jordan’s reaction that he and others certainly viewed it as a racial gesture and that my actions have caused a great deal of anger and upset to Jordan, his family and countless others,” Panetta said. “I want to express to everyone, and especially Jordan, that my actions were not racially motivated at all.”
The incident comes in the wake of the American Hockey League suspending Krystof Hrabik 30 games for a Jan. 12 incident. Former Komets defenseman Jalen Smereck was targeted by a taunt in September from Andrei Deniskin, who was suspended for 13 Ukraine league games.
Stingrays President Rob Concannon said the team was “disgusted and appalled” by what happened.
“Our organization stands in support of our friend and teammate, Jordan, as well as all other players who continue to deal with racism and discrimination,” Concannon said in a news release. “This behavior has to stop and is unacceptable.”