Smith victimized by racial slurs in OHL playoffs
Kitchener Rangers forward Givani Smith got the headlines when his obscene gesture toward the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds bench following Game 6 of the OHL Western Conference final earned the Detroit Red Wings prospect a two-game suspension, but the untold story of the episode was the abuse that Smith endured throughout the series.
According to a report by TheRecord.com, Smith, 20, who is black, was the victim of racial slurs from Greyhounds fans, and there were allegations that Sault Ste. Marie players were involved as well.
“Before we went up to the Soo there were racial things in his inbox on social media,” Rangers general manager Mike McKenzie told Josh Brown of TheRecord.com. “It was pretty disgusting to see some of the stuff that he had to deal with.”
A photo of Smith with the words “Hockey N-----” written under it, was sent to Smith’s Facebook page.
There was also an episode earlier in the season in Sarnia where Smith was accosted with racial epithets.
“We had an incident during the regular season where a fan somehow got access to our tunnel,” McKenzie said. “It was a game where he (Smith) had been sent to the room early because he had a misconduct. The fan poked his head in and yelled a racial slur down the hall. I'm not going to repeat it but it wasn't good.”
Greyhounds GM Kyle Raftis insisted he was unaware of any racial slurs committed by his players, and Raftis worked with the OHL to set up additional security for Smith and the Rangers, which included a police escort for the team bus to Game 7 in the Soo.
“Nobody from any walk of life should have to go through that,” Raftis said of the racial slurs.
Kitchener coach Jay McKee offered a simple answer if he ever heard anything of that nature from one of his players.
“I would fire a staff member for something like that,” said McKee, who while disappointed at the response Smith chose, tried to be understanding considering the circumstances.
“He did make an emotional mistake,” McKee said. “That's something he's going to learn from. But I know a lot of what he went through that led to that. It certainly doesn't condone breaking a league rule but a small part of me can sympathize and have an understanding why he let his emotions get the best of him.”
Smith, selected 46th overall by the Wings in the 2016 NHL entry draft, is not the first black player who is part of the Wings’ organization to deal with racial slurs involving the Greyhounds. Current Wings defenseman Trevor Daley was victimized by his coach John Vanbiesbrouck while playing for Sault Ste. Marie in 2003.
“I used the 'N' word instead of calling him Trevor,” Vanbiesbrouck told CBC.com at the time. “I used it just not thinking.”
Daley quit the Greyhounds, but returned to the team a few days later after Vanbiesbrouck stepped down as coach and GM of the club.
While Kaden Fulcher battles with the Hamilton Bulldogs in the OHL final, another Red Wings goaltending prospect has also been recognized for a fine season in the junior ranks.
Filip Larsson, selected 167th overall by the Wings in the 2016 NHL entry draft, was recently named goaltender of the year in the United States Hockey League. Playing for the Tri-City Storm, Larsson was also named to the USHL First All-Star Team. Larsson’s .941 save percentage was a league record, and his 1.65 goals-against average was the second-lowest in USHL history.
Follow me on Twitter @asktheduffer