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.”

Video: AHL goalie Jonas Gustavsson scores his first career goal

Getty
1 Comment

He didn’t shoot, but Jonas Gustavsson still scored.

The former NHL netminder, now with the Bakersfield Condors in the AHL, scored his first career goal Friday, as part of his team’s victory over the San Diego Gulls.

From the AHL:

With San Diego goaltender Dustin Tokarski on the bench for an extra attacker and the Gulls working on a power play, Gustavsson made a save before an errant San Diego pass slid down the length of the ice and into the vacated net at 16:56 of the third period.

Gustavsson is the fifth AHL goaltender to be credited with a goal without actually shooting the puck into the opposition net. In addition to his goal, Gustavsson stopped 30 of 31 shots in the Condors victory.

Bolts and Islanders both win, which is bad news for Bruins

Getty
1 Comment

The New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning each had to work overtime to decide their separate games, but when they ended, both clubs were victorious.

And that makes things even more interesting in the Eastern Conference wild card race.

With their shootout win in Pittsburgh, the Islanders tie the Bruins in points but take over the final playoff spot for now with fewer games played. The Lightning, despite an abundance of injuries all season, are just a point back of Boston and New York.

Nikita Kucherov scored the winner for Tampa Bay against the Red Wings. He’s up to 38 goals, which is second most in the league behind Sidney Crosby, currently at 42 goals.

Sellers leading up to the trade deadline, and without Steven Stamkos since the middle of November, the Lightning are in the thick of this race, even if others may have counted them out.

“Once again, people counted us out,” defenseman Victor Hedman told the Tampa Bay Times. “But we showed a lot of character. And we’re right back in it.”

The Bolts don’t play again until Monday, when they host the Chicago Blackhawks — only one of the hottest teams in the league.

Meanwhile, Saturday’s busy slate of games includes a showdown between the Bruins and Islanders. For Boston, it’s a chance for redemption after a particularly costly third period against Tampa Bay on Thursday.

What is wrong with the Sharks?

Getty
1 Comment

Not that long ago, the San Jose Sharks appeared well on their way to winning the Pacific Division title.

On March 14, they had a seven-point lead on both Anaheim and Calgary. Gone is that advantage. Not only have the Ducks surged back into the fight for the division, but the Sharks have lost five in a row and are having a terrible time of late creating any offense.

The Ducks defeated the Jets on Friday, moving into a tie with the Sharks at 91 points.

San Jose’s struggles hit a new low Friday with a 6-1 loss to the Dallas Stars, a team with its own flaws and nowhere close to a playoff position.

At one point midway through the second period, the Sharks trailed the Stars by four goals and had only six lousy shots on goal. During this skid, San Jose has scored only five goals.

Earlier this week, members of the Sharks said they weren’t terribly worried about this losing streak. The losses, they had said, were in close games, which is true: San Jose lost three consecutive one-goal games.

“When I look at the losing streak, we dominated some of those games for long periods and found ways to lose. You never like to lose, but I’m not that concerned,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “We’ve got to obviously end it. We’ve got to get healthy. I don’t see a bunch of symptoms of a team that can’t get this fixed pretty quickly.”

This, however, was a blowout. Adam Cracknell recorded the hat trick, pushing his single-season career-high in goals to 10.

The performance at one point forced DeBoer to take a timeout, in which he expressed his displeasure.

Making matters worse for the Sharks: Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic left the game early in the third period and was put under further evaluation. He didn’t return.

The Sharks visit the Nashville Predators on Saturday.

Halak and the Islanders defeat Penguins, move into wild card spot

Getty
3 Comments

Quite a hockey game between the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday.

It offered plenty to enjoy — Phil Kessel‘s dominant but unfruitful shift in overtime, a combined 86 shots on goal between both teams, a showcase of skill from the likes of John Tavares and Sidney Crosby, and two strong goaltending performances from Jaroslav Halak and Marc-Andre Fleury.

Josh Ho-Sang, who wears No. 66, which is just fine in the eyes of Mario Lemieux, set up Brock Nelson‘s goal in the second period.

The Islanders and their fans probably aren’t hung up on style points at this juncture of the season. They just care about wins and points in the standings, and those are exactly what New York accomplished with a 4-3 shootout win in Pittsburgh.

Anthony Beauvillier and Tavares scored for the Islanders in the shootout. Halak made 37 stops, including a game-saver in overtime off Matt Cullen. Halak trapped the puck, which was right on the goal line, between his legs on a chance from in front. The play was reviewed but no goal.

The win gives the Islanders 82 points, which is the same total as the struggling Boston Bruins.

However, the Islanders, with one game in hand on the Bruins, take over the final wild card spot in the East for now.