Better With Popcorn

Sad Scene in London

As the Philadelphia Flyers and Detroit Red Wings were in the middle of a shootout during their exhibition match in London, Ontario on Thursday, something happened. Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds, a Canadian of African descent, had an object thrown at him from the stands before he scored his shootout goal. The object was a banana.  The act was despicable, disgusting and horrendous. 

There are many more adjectives that couldbe used to sum up the act, but there's really no need to list them all. The act itself brought about two very clear things, unlike the adjective list. 

First, the person that threw the object at Simmonds was an idiot who deserves to have any privileges of attending a hockey game revoked. Not only is there no excuse for what happened, there's literally no rationale which would allow for any wiggle room on the matter. 

Fans have no business throwing objects AT players. Hats for hat tricks, an octopus for a playoff series in Detroit, fine. But throwing objects at players will never be tolerated in any sport nor should it be. If anyone needs proof to back that claim, look no further than Ron Artest's excursion into the stands during an Indiana Pacers/ Detroit Pistons game. It shouldn't happen, and the fact that it does happen reflects poorly on hockey fans in general, especially to those outside the realm of the NHL.

On this occasion, it's clear that the idiot behind the act had to bring the item into the arena. They had to wait for an opportunity. And, they had to actually throw it at the player when the opportunity presented itself. There's no way to assume that this event 'just happened', mostly because it didn't. The rules of logic don't allow it and not even the most naive could argue otherwise. The fan in question clearly brought the banana with the sole purpose of hurling it at Simmonds. 

And that's all despicable enough. Without even going into the blatantly obvious racism that was involved in the act, the act is despicable. That's pathetic, especially because the racism is the worst part about what transpired. 

Aside from wasting words on a classless racist who disgraced hockey fans, the real truth of the event was that Wayne Simmonds redefined class. He downplayed the incident in a conversation with reporters after the game. He scored his goal and he moved on. He saw no reason to dwell on what happened.

Actually, there was plenty reason to dwell on it. But, Simmonds chose not to dwell on it.

A few years ago, Simmonds joined NHL legend Willie O'Ree to spread the game of hockey to young African-Americans. He's always been saluted as a consummate teammate by those that put on the sweater next to him day after day. He puts on his skates, he plays hard, and he's made efforts to make a difference off the ice as well. 

So of course it makes sense that when someone took a dig at the color of Simmonds skin he shrugged it off and did his job. He rose above a shameful act and kept his head to the sky. Whether he or others want to admit it, it's probably because he's faced similar situations before. 

In a sport with a extremely small number of players of African descent, Simmonds has probably encountered his demons on and off the ice before. That's the real shame of the situation. 

Don't act like this is the first or last racist action that will take place in the NHL, hockey fans. As long as the human race exists, morons will exist to humiliate the good people that are out there respecting even the players on opposing teams. Regardless of the color on a sweater, people are capable of handing out their respect. For an individual in London to hand out disrespect because of color on skin, that's just atrocious. 

It's embarrassing for hockey, it's embarrassing for hockey fans, and it's embarrassing for everyone involved. 

Yet, the one person that most would assume is atop the list of being embarrassed handled it better than anyone else did. 

Bravo, Wayne Simmonds. You're a bigger man than most.


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Matt Cefalu's picture

Props for writing this article. I'd probably get too fed-up halfway through and just go to bed.

It's a shame. I'm not really sure how else to describe it, other than reiterating what you've already said. How have we come so far as a society and yet still have such a long way to go when it comes to this type of issue?

Simmonds class makes me feel like he's been a Flyer for years already.

George Prax's picture

No matter where you go in the world, there will be people who are ignorant and decide to do things like this. Simmonds doesn't deserve it (no one does, really).

But it kind of boggles the mind when you think about it. Someone made sure to find out if Simmonds was in the line-up, brought (by all accounts ) SEVERAL bananas to the game, and essentially waited for the late 3rd period and then the off-chance that they not only make it to the shootout, but for Simmonds to actually participate in it. That's a lot of planning for someone with severe mental deficiencies.

Kyle Andrew Busch's picture

This makes Red Wings fans look bad. What kind of idiot would do that? Do they think it's funny? I found it sickening and it took away from a game I was looking forward to. This game should have been a good time for people in London (obviously there are a lot more Wings fans than Flyers fans) and it was a chance for fans to show their support if they couldn't make it to the Joe. As a Wings fan, I am disgusted and want to apologize for this idiot that thought he was clever. You sir are a joke. Stay away from the rink.

Alicia Sprenkle's picture

Excellent piece Mark! I'm on the same page as Matt. I would have become too angry with the idiot if I tried to write this. But you did a fantastic job and I cannot get over how classy Simmonds handled the situation. He is a wonderful man.

Rob McGowan's picture

Kyle, I don't think it makes Red Wings fans look bad. You can't pin something on an entire fan base because of one ignorant moron. Unfortunately, as George said, no matter where you go, these things will happen. That said, the guy is an absolute disgrace. Hopefully though, by the time the weekend rolls around, everyone will have been moved on because this clown has gotten more face time than he deserves.