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Wings react to fan's ignorant act

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
DETROIT – It’s nothing new in the world of sports. But that doesn’t mean that ignorant acts such as the one perpetrated by a fan at Thursday’s NHL exhibition game in London, Ontario, between the Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers, should be condoned.

As Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds skated in on a shootout attempt against Wings goalie Jordan Pearce, a fan threw a banana at the Philadelphia player, who is black.

And though Simmonds said that he has dealt with racism in the past, the Scarborough, Ont., native tried to rise above the ugly situation by releasing a statement through the Flyers’ public relations staff Friday morning in Detroit.

“It was unfortunate that this incident happened but I am above this sort of stuff,” said Simmonds, in a statement. “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.”

The Flyers (1-1-1) are in Detroit to play the Red Wings (1-1-0) on a second straight night. Simmonds, who was traded by Los Angeles to the Flyers last June, is not in Friday’s lineup.
As Simmonds crossed the blue line, the banana landed near his skates near the top of the right circle. Without missing a beat, Simmonds moved in and scored on Pearce. Moments later, a linesman skated to the top of the right circle, scoped up the fruit and deposited between the team benches.

“I didn’t know what it was at first, just because it landed right next to the puck. It was right at the top of the circles,” Pearce said. “It’s unfortunate that that stuff happens. It’s pretty ugly to see. At the time I didn’t know that it was a racial thing. I just thought it was something that a fan threw out. It’s unfortunate and sad.”

Meanwhile, other Wings weren’t accepting of Thursday’s incident, either.
“It was absolutely disgraceful,” coach Mike Babcock said. “But what I like about it was the kid buried, never missed a beat and never responded. I haven't seen the news clips if he even responded at all, but we're way better than that.”

The incident also drew the ire of NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, who released the following statement Friday:

“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.”

Wings forward Valtteri Filppula, who watched Thursday’s incident from the team bench, said that racial is still a reality in European soccer.

“That shouldn’t happen, and it’s unnecessary,” Filppula said. “That should be a part of any sports. It was kind of quiet, I thought, and seemed like everyone was wondering what happened. … I don’t know what else to say. It’s unfortunate that things like that happen.”

“In Europe, you see more of that in soccer. I don’t know why it happens.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill

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