Icemen president: Announcer, referee made mistake by announcing penalty for racial gesture

The president of the Jacksonville Icemen told News4JAX on Tuesday the announcer at the arena Saturday made a mistake when announcing player Jacob Panetta was cited for making a racist gesture.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The president of the Jacksonville Icemen told News4JAX on Tuesday the announcer at the arena Saturday made a mistake when announcing player Jacob Panetta was cited for making a racial gesture.

He said typically when players do something that gets them thrown out of a game the league investigates before making a determination on their misconduct.

He said that’s exactly what the ECHL is doing now.

Bob Ohrablo bought the Jacksonville Icemen hockey team five years ago and he’s now the team’s president and one of several of the team’s owners.

“It’s my baby,” Ohrablo said.

His baby became embroiled in controversy after now-former player Jacob Panetta was accused of making a racist gesture at South Carolina Stingrays player Jordan Subban following a fight on the ice Saturday.

RELATED: Icemen fan records alleged racist incident on video

Subban described the motion in a tweet as “monkey gestures” but hasn’t spoken publicly since.

Panetta claims he was trying to imitate a bodybuilder and has since apologized. He told a Canadian news outlet Monday he didn’t realize how Subban interpreted the gesture until he heard Subban in the hallway after the game.

Panetta released a video statement Sunday.

“I see now from Jordan’s reaction, that he and others certainly viewed it as a racial gesture, and that my actions have caused a great deal of anger and upset to Jordan, his family, and countless others,” he said in the video.

At the game, the announcer said over the PA system Panetta had been cited for making a “racial gesture.”

News4JAX pulled up the penalties from the game online and it shows several penalties against Panetta but none for making a “racial gesture.”

News4JAX asked Ohrablo why that is.

“Because is there is no penalty,” he said. “There is no game misconduct for anything, for racial gestures or anything. It’s the act that causes the game misconduct and then the player’s not really guilty of that until the league rules. So that was a mistake by the referee and a mistake by our PA announcer.”

Ohrablo said the league is investigating the incident now and talking to the players and officials involved as well as reviewing video.

Panetta claims there’s footage showing him making what he called a “tough guy” gesture in the past. Ohrablo said the league has asked for videos of old games, and they’ve turned them over.

He said the league asked him not to comment on why the Icemen released Panetta before the investigation was done, but in a statement released Sunday, the team’s CEO said the organization apologizes to anyone who was offended and looks forward to beginning the process of healing.

Ohrablo said he couldn’t comment on the incident while the investigation is underway.

“I really want the league to iron this out. It’s such a sensitive subject, and I want to make sure that the league comes down with a decision,” Ohrablo said.

He said the league tells him they’re hoping to wrap up the investigation in a few days.

According to Ohrablo, Panetta, like most players with the Icemen, had the kind of contract that allowed him to move up to another level at any time but also allowed him to be released at any time for any reason.


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I-TEAM and general assignment reporter