Wings’ prospect Smith is target of racial slurs, threats
Wings prospect Givani Smith “shouldn’t have to endure it,” Kitchner GM Mike McKenzie said of the slurs and threats.
Detroit Red Wings prospect Givani Smith has been the target of racial slurs and threats.
Smith, a member of the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League, made headlines recently by making an inappropriate gesture towards the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds bench in Game 6 of an OHL playoff series between the two teams.
He was suspended for two games, forcing him to miss Game 7, which Sault Ste. Marie won 4-3 in double overtime.
His gesture could have been the result of racial slurs, threats and abuse that Smith endured before the game, according to the Waterloo Legion Record.
Smith, 20 and Detroit’s second-round pick in 2016 (46th overall), flipped off the Greyhounds’ bench after the Rangers’ 4-3 overtime win in Game 6.
"He shouldn't have to endure it," Kitchener general manager Mike McKenzie told the paper. "He did a good job of turning the other way. I think the unfortunate part – and it pains me to say this – is that he's probably used to it by now. He's probably heard things before, which is brutal."
McKenzie referred to the abuse as "heartbreaking."
"There were threats, physical threats after Game 6," McKenzie said. "Before we went up to the Soo, there were racial things in his inbox on social media. It was pretty disgusting to see some of the stuff that he had to deal with."
Smith couldn't be reached for comment by the Region Record. He will begin his pro career next season with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League.
The Rangers needed a police escort from the Soo airport to their hotel and from the hotel to the arena for Game 7, the Region Record reported. Smith watched the game from the press box with a security guard posted at the door.
Smith has had to deal with racial incidents before. After a late-season game in Sarnia, a fan tried to enter the Kitchener dressing room to get at him.
"It was a game where (Smith) had been sent to the room early because he had a misconduct," McKenzie told the newspaper. "The fan poked his head in and yelled a racial slur down the hall."
Smith is a 6-2, 205-pound physical winger who models his game after that of the Philadelphia Flyers’ Wayne Simmonds.
Smith had 17 goals, 30 points and 50 penalty minutes in 46 games split between the Guelph Storm and Kitchener this season. But he was a force in the playoffs with Kitchener, collecting 11 goals and 18 points. He also had 22 penalty minutes and was plus-5 in 18 games.
Smith had 26 goals and 44 points and 139 penalty minutes in 64 games with Guelph in 2016-17. He also played three AHL games with Grand Rapids that season and had two penalty minutes and was minus-2.