Detroit Red Wings prospect Givani Smith was the unfortunate target of racial slurs and threats during last week’s OHL playoffs.
Currently playing for the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers, he assisted on the game-winning goal over the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in Game 6 of their Western Conference Finals matchup. However, following the goal, Smith skated by the Greyhounds bench and flipped them the bird. Smith was suspended two games because of his actions, but that’s not where the drama ended.
Racial slurs and threats were directed at Smith, who is black, afterwards on social media. The abuse also included a death threat according to The Waterloo Region Record. The Rangers needed police escorts from the airport in Sault Ste. Marie to the team’s hotel and then again between the hotel and the arena.
“There were threats, physical threats after Game 6,” said Rangers general manager Mike McKenzie.
“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.”
This isn’t the first incident involving Smith and the fans. During a late season game against the Sarnia Sting, a fan tried to get at Smith in the team’s locker room.
“We had an incident during the regular season where a fan somehow got access to our tunnel,” said McKenzie.
“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.”
The Rangers also reportedly heard derogatory comments from behind the team bench in Sault Ste. Marie, which also allegedly included verbal abuse from players.
“It’s heartbreaking to be honest,” said McKenzie.
“He shouldn’t have to endure it. 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.”
Smith was drafted by the Red Wings 46th overall in the 2016 NHL Draft. At 6’2 and 205 lbs, Smith has all the makings of a power forward. Rangers coach Jay McKee acknowledged Smith made a mistake, but knows that the young forward will learn from it moving forward.
“He did make an emotional mistake,” said McKee. “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.”