Ontario fan throws banana at Wayne Simmonds in shameful racist display

78 Comments

In what the NHL calls a “stupid and ignorant” display of racism, at least one fan threw a banana at black Philadelphia Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds during a shootout attempt tonight. Simmonds still managed to score on his attempt, although the Flyers ended up losing that preseason game to the Detroit Red Wings in front of a neutral-site crowd in London, Ontario.

It’s possible that this wasn’t the only time a fan attempted to throw a banana at Simmonds during the game, either. Brian Floyd passes along a fan’s note that someone tried to hit Simmonds with one late in the third period when he scored a 3-3 goal to send the contest to overtime, but that attempt fell short.

Sam Carchidi caught up with Simmonds following the game, who confirmed that it happened but said he didn’t want to make a big deal about it. Here’s a little more from Simmonds on what must have been a strange moment.

“I don’t know if it had anything to do with the fact I’m black,” the Toronto native said. “I certainly hope not. When you’re black, you kind of expect (racist) things. You learn to deal with it.”

Simmonds acknowledged the banana rattled him, and his only thought was to get off a shot — which went in for the Flyers’ only score in the shootout.

“It shocked me and knew I had to keep going and get a shot off,” he said. “It was certainly unusual.”

Simmonds deserves credit for shaking it off in such a professional way, but the fan (or fans) should be ashamed for that revolting act. To add an extra level of sadness to an already awful situation, Simmonds is a Scarborough, Ontario native.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time hockey fans have thrown bananas at a black hockey player. Former Carolina Hurricanes goalie Kevin Weekes dealt with the racial epithet during a 2002 series against the Montreal Canadiens.

As far as exchanges between opponents, it’s impossible to know how many slurs fly around during trash talking sessions, although there was at least once incident in which the matter became public. Georges Laraque accused Sean Avery of calling him a “monkey” in 2005, a claim that Avery denied.

Naturally, hockey isn’t the only sport in which fans interact with black players in such a way. (Soccer fans have a reputation of doing so, for example.) That doesn’t make it any less disturbing, especially since it’s far from uncommon to see black players in prominent roles now. Groundbreaking players such as Willie O’Ree and Grant Fuhr have made way for an impressive wave of stars, from Jarome Iginla to Evander Kane and Dustin Byfuglien.

Obviously, such a ghastly display of racism is discouraging – it’s 2011, after all – but hopefully this will just be an ugly, isolated incident.

Update (10:15 am ET):  NHL commissioner Gary Bettman released the following statement regarding 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.”

Eddie Lack expects to be released from hospital on Monday night

Leave a comment

As scary as the situation was for Carolina Hurricanes goalie Eddie Lack, the good news continues to pour in.

First, the Hurricanes provided an update that he had “full feeling in his extremities” while under observation at a hospital. This followed the promising sign that he was able to give a “thumbs up” gesture while being taken off the ice on a stretcher after the Hurricanes’ 4-3 overtime loss to the Detroit Red Wings.

The best news came late on Monday night, however, as Lack himself tweeted that he expects to head back home as early as this late evening/early morning:

That’s fantastic news. Video of that scary collision with Andreas Athanasiou can be seen in the video above this post’s headline.

Blues, Flames take care of business (Islanders … do not)

Getty
Leave a comment

For a while there, it seemed like the idle Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs would be Monday’s “winners.” That changed when the Carolina Hurricanes salvaged a standings point and the Tampa Bay Lightning stormed back to beat the Blackhawks.

Still, there were some teams who came through (beyond the Lightning) and those who fell flat, so let’s cover some of the results in short.

West teams get it done

Unlike their counterparts out East, West teams jockeying for position avoided “unforced errors” in losing to non-playoff teams.

The St. Louis Blues beat the Arizona Coyotes 4-1 while the Calgary Flames topped the Colorado Avalanche 4-2.

This keeps the Blues and Flames in position to advance. St. Louis is one point behind the Nashville Predators for third in the Central while the Flames are a point behind both the Sharks and Oilers for second and third in the Pacific (while remaining in shouting distance of the division title).

East teams stumble, some get over it

Again, the Lightning fought through hurdles to win and the Hurricanes managed that “charity point.”

Overall, East teams struggled. The New York Islanders fell to the Predators by a score of 3-1. Your mileage may vary on the Florida Panthers’ chances, especially after they fell 4-2 to the Buffalo Sabres.

Here’s what the race for the final spot in the East looks like after tonight:

Final wild card: Bruins – 84 points in 75 games played

Lightning – 83 points in 75 GP
Islanders – 82 points in 75 GP
Hurricanes – 80 points in 74 GP

Victor Hedman might just force his way into the Norris argument

Getty
3 Comments

For quite some time this season, the Norris Trophy race felt a bit like “Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson and [insert token finalist].” As it turns out, Victor Hedman is making it a pretty interesting three-horse race.

With Burns and Karlsson idle on Monday, Hedman continued to go on the best offensive tear of his already-impressive career, contributing three assists to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 5-4 overtime win against the Chicago Blackhawks.

As much credit as forwards Nikita Kucherov and Jonathan Drouin deserve in pushing Tampa Bay in Steven Stamkos‘ absence, Hedman has been an all-world blueliner for a Lightning team with a defense that isn’t really surrounding him with great talent.

He’s serving as a workhorse when his team needs him the most:

Now, when you look at the numbers, it’s probably fair to say that Hedman comes in third among the likely finalists in simple categories:

Brent Burns: 27 goals (!), 72 points in 75 games, +16 rating, 24:52 time-on-ice average

Erik Karlsson: 14 goals, 67 points in 74 games, +7, 26:53 minutes per game (fourth highest average in the NHL)

Victor Hedman: 15 goals, 65 points in 72 games, +2 rating, came into Monday with average of 24:15 minutes per game.

Looking at those breakdowns, you might wonder why someone wouldn’t just flippantly hand Hedman the “bronze medal” and a pat on the back … but things get more interesting if you ponder the all-around impact of those three.

Now, traditional-thinkers who slam risky defensemen for their mistakes often overstate such arguments. Both Burns and Karlsson tilt the ice in their teams’ favors, usually to profound degrees.

Still … Hedman locks opponents down to a truly elite degree and scores at a similar rate. Hedman could very well own the “two-way” argument; you could perhaps see his case most clearly when you compare his “HERO” chart to those of Burns and Karlsson, especially from the perspective of conceding shots.

Again, Burns remains the likely winner, and he would be a deserving one. You could make a solid Hart Trophy argument for Burns, in addition to tabbing him as the Norris frontrunner.

Even so, voters would be wise to take Hedman’s case seriously, especially as the Lightning continue their improbable playoff push.

Lightning storm back against Blackhawks, finish one point out of playoffs

3 Comments

Who would have thought that the Tampa Bay Lightning would rally back from a 4-1 deficit tonight? Then again, who expected them to be so close to a playoff spot mere weeks ago, when they were sellers at the trade deadline?

The Lightning continue to show that they won’t just roll over and die, scoring four unanswered goals to beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-4 in overtime on Monday.

While Jonathan Drouin was a catalyst for the second-period rally, it was an unlikely scorer who clinched the victory, as Yanni Gourde ended a thrilling run of 3-on-3 chances with the overtime-winner.

Really, it might have been fitting. Things looked glum when Tomas Jurco scored his first goal of the season against the Lightning, then the mood was totally flipped when Gourde’s second tally of 2016-17 grabbed a huge win.

With the Islanders losing to the Predators, the Hurricanes only managing a “loser point” against the Red Wings and the Bruins idle, Tampa Bay is a breath away from a playoff berth:

Final wild card: Bruins – 84 points in 75 games played

Lightning – 83 points in 75 GP
Islanders – 82 points in 75 GP
Hurricanes – 80 points in 74 GP

Yes, all of a sudden, a long-shot postseason run seems quite attainable.

Maybe the Lightning would prefer it if we kept counting them out, though?