Jalen Smereck, the Detroit native subjected to racist taunts in a Ukrainian Hockey League game last month, will continue his career with a new club in Europe. Smereck, 24, signed a one-year deal with the Bietigheim Steelers of the DEL, Germany’s top-tier pro league.
The former captain of the OHL’s Flint Firebirds spent most of the last five seasons playing for the Arizona Coyotes’ affiliate in the AHL before signing to play in Ukraine this season. But that stint with HC Donbass ended last week, shortly after Smereck, the only Black player in the Ukrainian league, found himself on the receiving end of racial taunts during a game in late September.
Critics blasted the league’s weak disciplinary response to the incident, and after briefly returning to play for Donbass, Smereck and the club mutually agreed to terminate his contract last week so he could find another team to finish out this season.
“Jalen should give our defense even more security and depth,” Beitigheim’s general manager, Volker Schoch, said in a statement. “He comes to us so that he can play ice hockey with joy again. Despite his young age, we see him able to take on responsibility. His personality and his character fit perfectly with our philosophy.”