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Edwin Hedberg is a 21-year-old forward in the Kontinental Hockey League, playing for Medveščak Zagreb. His hockey journey has been an unusual one: Born in Medellín, Colombia, he gave up soccer for hockey and his skills led him to MODO in Sweden. He was suspended in 2014 for a positive test for a banned substance he consumed accidentally, but played on after that, hooking up with Zagreb in 2014-15.
His journey took an unfortunate turn this week during a KHL game at Spartak Moscow. After Zagreb won the game, 4-1, on Wednesday, Spartak fans threw two bananas on the ice at Hedberg – a racial incident that has captured headlines throughout Europe (although it wasn’t included in the KHL-released highlights of the game).
"I don't know what to say. Things like this shouldn't happen but unfortunately they do. It's my second KHL season but I've encountered this for the first time," said Hedberg, via R-Sport.
When asked if there should be any penalties for the fans who threw the bananas, Hedberg declined to comment.
But Valery Kamensky, the deputy chairman of Spartak and former NHL forward, condemned the fans’ actions. “It is important to find those who did this and prohibit him or them from going to hockey matches. There are witnesses who can help to try to find the culprit,” he said. “Such cases are very rare in hockey so this is serious and must cease immediately.”
These cases are rare in hockey, although it’s not like we haven’t seen this play out in North America: Please recall Wayne Simmonds having a banana peel tossed at him during a Philadelphia Flyers exhibition game in 2011.
They’re not rare in Russian sports, however, and specifically soccer. There was the banana tossed at Brazilian defender Roberto Carlos in 2011. In 2014, Dynamo Moscow’s Christopher Samba asked his coach not to play him in the second half of the game because of the racial abuse he was taking from the stands. This year saw Ghanaian midfielder Emmanuel Frimpong kicked out of a game in Russia for giving the finger to fans that were making “monkey noises” at him.
It’s both expected, and more than a little disappointing, that this behavior has reached the KHL.
UPDATE: The KHL has responded:
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