As Flyers' new forward Wayne Simmonds stepped on the ice to take a penalty shot in last night's Flyers vs Red Wings game, a fan at the Labatt Centre in Ontario (across the water from Detroit) threw a banana on the ice. Simmonds is one of the few black players in the NHL and clearly the banana was meant as some sort of racist taunt. The same type of taunts have sometimes been directed at black soccer players in parts of eastern Europe and Spain. But this has to be the first time I've ever heard of such an incident this side of the pond.
"I've never had a banana thrown at me before. That's a first for me," Simmonds told the Inquirer after the game. "I guess it's something I obviously have to deal with _ being a black player playing a predominantly white sport. I've grown a lot playing in this league and throughout my whole life. I'm not going to dwell on that. It's over with now."
One of Simmonds' teammates who asked to remain nameless told Frenk Servalli, "I would have went and kicked that fan's ass myself. That's just not right."
"Wayne Simmonds is a good friend of mine. To hear what happened tonight to him in my hometown is awful. No need for this in sports, or life."
Kevin Weekes, a goalie and one of the few other black players in the NHL, also responded.
"I'm extremely disappointed with what happened to Wayne Simmonds tonight in London Ont.We've taken HUGE steps to grow the game of hockey,as I speak Willie O'Ree and I are in D.C attending the Black Congressional Caucus on behalf of the #NHL & ironically this takes place:( There's NO place for this in sports since sport connects us not divides us. Much love to all the true & classy #NHL Fans..."
What really is there to say? You certainly don't need me to editorialize on how awful this is. We as fans can only do our best to protect our favorite game, our players and really our society as a whole. If you ever see anything like is, please point these people out to security and at the very least let's make sure these idiots lose the privilege of ever being allowed in an NHL arena again.
This becomes second major black eye for hockey fans in less than a year. The first was of course the riots in Vancouver after the Canucks lost in the finals. While the actions of one idiot certainly shouldn't be applied to all hockey fans, this is certainly something that the NHL did not need after the ugly way the last season ended.