September 22, 2011
The Philadelphia Flyers and Detroit Red Wings played in a neutral site exhibition game Thursday night in London, Ontario. While the 4-3 win for the Red Wings was the result, the story was an apparent racist incident during the shootout.
Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds(notes) was in the middle of his shootout attempt when a fan inside the Labatt Centre threw a banana peel in his path. Simmonds, who is black, wasn't shaken by it and beat Red Wings goaltender Jordan Pearce(notes).
Simmonds, who grew up a little over two hours from London in Scarborough, took the high road talking about the incident after the game with the Philadelphia Daily News' Frank Seravalli:
"When you're a black man playing in a predominantly white man's sport, you've got to come to expect things like that," Simmonds said. "Over the past 23 years of my life, I've come to expect some things like that. But I'm older and more mature now, I kind of just left things roll off [my back]. I try not to think about stuff like that."
Sources told Seravalli that the perpetrator was not caught.
That kind of racism has been seen in hockey for far too long. Sadly, it's been prevalent in European soccer for some time causing FIFA to begin its "Let's Kick Racism Out of Football" campaign. Whether it's bananas or racist chants or taunts, it's sad that one idiot in the crowd decided that it was a good idea to put their ignorance on display.
Peter Luukko, president and COO of Comcast-Spectator (owners of the Flyers) issued the following statement on Thursday night:
"It appeared as though a fan threw an object onto the ice during the shootout. Unfortunately, we weren't able to identify the individual.
"We certainly don't condone such a foolish act [like this] as a player could potentially be seriously injured. This is ninth time we have played here in London and the fans have always been wonderful to us. The Flyers consider this our 'home away from home' and that's because this city, the fans and this spectacular arena have been so supportive of the Philadelphia Flyers."
On Friday morning, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman released a statement about the incident:
"We have millions of great fans who show tremendous respect for our players and for the game. The obviously stupid and ignorant action by one individual is in no way representative of our fans or the people of London, Ontario."
... as did London, Ontario Mayor Joe Fontana:
"As Mayor, and on behalf of Londoners, I am sending an apology to Wayne Simmonds and the Philadelphia Flyers organization regarding the incident at last night's exhibition game. It was a stupid and mindless act by a single individual, however it reflects badly on our entire community. London is a diverse and welcoming city and we like it that way."
Through the Flyers, Simmonds released his own statement putting the incident behind him and looking ahead:
"It was unfortunate that this incident happened but I am above this sort of stuff. This is something that is out of my control. Moving forward, this incident is something I will no longer comment on so I can just focus on playing hockey for the Philadelphia Flyers."
Ironically, Simmonds told CSN Philly earlier this week that racial negativity "really doesn't happen in Canada. That's pretty much the way it is."
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