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Support flows in for Simmonds after incident

Friday, 09.23.2011 / 9:19 AM / News

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Support flows in for Simmonds after incident
Support for Wayne Simmonds arrived from all corners of the hockey world in the hours after an on-ice incident during the shootout of Thursday's preseason game between Philadelphia and Detroit at the John Labatt Centre in London, Ont.

Simmonds, a forward for the Philadelphia Flyers, had a banana thrown at him from the stands during his shootout attempt.

"I don't know if it had anything to do with the fact I'm black," Simmonds, 23, told reporters after the game. "I certainly hope not. When you're black, you kind of expect (racist) things. You learn to deal with it."

On Friday, Simmonds issued a statement through the Flyers' public relations department, saying he was moving forward from what happened: "It was unfortunate that this incident happened but I am above this sort of stuff. This is something that is obviously out of my control. Moving forward, this incident is something that I will no longer comment on so I can just focus playing hockey for the Philadelphia Flyers."

Others, though, were not as understanding.

NHL Network analyst Kevin Weekes, who played goalie in the NHL, condemned the incident Thursday through his Twitter feed (@KevinWeekes).

"For those that asked: I'm extremely disappointed with what happened to Wayne Simmonds tonight in London Ont," he posted. "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."

@Logancouture:
"Wayne Simmonds is a good friend of mine. To hear what happened to him in my hometown is awful. No need for this in sports or life."
-- Logan Couture
O'Ree, the League's first black player, and Weekes are among a contingent of hockey ambassadors attending the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's 41st Annual Legislative Conference, marking the first time the hockey community has had a formal presence at the annual public-policy gathering.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman commented on the incident in a statement released by the League Friday morning: "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."

London Mayor Joe Fontana issued an apology to Simmonds on behalf of his town: "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."

Current NHL players used Twitter in the hours after the incident to show support for Simmonds, who joined the Flyers in a June trade from the Los Angeles Kings.

"The incident that happened in London tonight involving my best friend Wayne Simmonds was simply disgusting, its 2011 ppl need to grow up," St. Louis Blues forward Chris Stewart (@CStewSTL25) said on his account.

San Jose forward Logan Couture (@Logancouture) grew up just outside of London and also was horrified by the incident.

"Wayne Simmonds is a good friend of mine," he tweeted. "To hear what happened to him in my hometown is awful. No need for this in sports or life."

The preseason game was considered a home game for the Flyers, despite the Red Wings being the closer team geographically to London, and the majority of the crowd of 7,427 was pulling for Detroit. The arena is operated by Global Spectrum, a subsidiary of the Flyers' parent company, Comcast-Spectacor.

"Unfortunately, we weren't able to identify the individual," Comcast-Spectacor president and COO Peter Luukko said in a statement. "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."
Quote of the Day

The groove of being behind a bench is going to be interesting at first, but thank God we have a few exhibition games to get rid of those cobwebs. Overall the excitement of it all and the freshness and coming back refreshed, all those things are going to be assets. If [the players] come ready to give their best effort in practice and games, good things are going to happen. I'm always looking for results. It's not always on the scoreboard. It's winning and building something.

— Bryan Trottier on making his return to coaching as an assistant with the Sabres