San Jose Barracuda forward Krystof Hrabik issued a public apology Friday night, hours after the AHL gave him a 30-game suspension for making a racist gesture toward Tucson Roadrunners left wing Boko Imama, who is Black. The incident, which Hrabik said he's "embarrassed" of, took place during the Roadrunners' 4-3 win on Jan. 12.
In a statement, Hrabik said he's "ashamed" by the suspension and takes "full responsibility" for his actions. Hrabik didn't, however, admit to having any racist intent upon making the gesture.
"People should know that I had absolutely no inappropriate intent," Hrabik said. "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."
Roadrunners staff informed the AHL of Hrabik directing a monkey gesture toward Imama after their Jan. 12 game, and the league confirmed the incident through video. An investigation launched the following day, and starting then the Barracuda kept Hrabik from all team activities.
The San Jose Sharks AHL affiliate will now lose Hrabik until at least April 3 while he serves the suspension. Hrabik, who's already served three games of the suspension, can apply for early reinstatement on March 12 "based on an evaluation of his progress in the necessary education and training with the Player Inclusion Committee."
Hrabik said he won't appeal the AHL's decision in his statement.
"The Barracuda and San Jose Sharks organizations were appalled to learn of this incident," the Barracuda said in a statement. "We offer our sincerest apologies to Boko, the Roadrunners organization, the AHL, our fans, and the entire hockey community. 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 Sharks and Barracuda organizations' values."
This isn't Imama's first encounter with racist behavior in the AHL. Brandon Manning, then a defenseman with the Ontario Reign, got a five-game suspension from the league after directing a racial slur toward Imama in January 2020. The two dropped gloves when their teams met weeks later.
"The AHL stands with Boko Imama," AHL president 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."
Imama, a 27-year-old former Tampa Bay Lightning draft pick, has eight points (four goals, four assists) over 27 games with the Roadrunners this season. Hrabik, 22, has scored four points (one goal, three assists) through 21 games with the Barracuda.