A recent history of racial incidents in the NHL

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Wayne Simmonds showed a lot of class and character by taking the high road in discussing last night’s awful incident in which an Ontario fan threw a banana at him. While his private thoughts must be at least a bit different from his diplomatic public comments, here’s hoping that he wasn’t hurt too deeply by a bad apple (or a few bad apples) who did such a lousy thing to him in his old stomping grounds.

Sadly enough, you probably have to have thick skin to fight your way to the NHL as a black hockey player. It seems like these terrible gestures are pretty rare – at least at the sport’s highest level – but these moments still bruise the sport’s reputation.

While this isn’t meant to be a complete list, here are some of the more notable moments and interesting stories revolving around the topic of racism in hockey from the last 10 years or so. (Note: this list focuses mainly on the NHL, so feel free to discuss issues at the junior, college and minor league levels in the comments.)

John Vanbiesbrouck and Trevor Daley: The “Bieser” might be remembered for his fantastic, rubber rat-laden run to the 1996 Stanley Cup finals with the Florida Panthers, but others will allow a far less pleasant memory linger. Vanbiesbrouck resigned from his position as the general manager of the OHL’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds after using a racial epithet in regard while discussing current Dallas Stars defenseman Trevor Daley in 2003. Vanbiesbrouck apologized profusely for his ugly comment, but the damage was already done.

Kevin Weekes, Wayne Simmonds and Peter Worrell are among the (hopefully small list of) black players who’ve had bananas thrown at them. Worrell dealt with quite a few other high-profile incidents of racist behavior, including when Craig Berube received a one-game suspension for calling him a “monkey.” As PHT discussed in the post about the Simmonds situation, Georges Laraque also accused Sean Avery of uttering the same racial remark in 2005.

Ted Nolan’s claims of prejudice: Racism isn’t always just a “black or white” issue in hockey. Former Buffalo Sabres coach Ted Nolan is of First Nation heritage, which Nolan claimed was a roadblock as he attempted to land another coaching job. The validity of his argument is up for debate, but it seemed worthy of a mention. Regardless of that dicussion, there should be little doubt that Nolan dealt with his fair share of discrimination.

Different minority groups haven’t always gotten along very well with each other, either, as you can see from an ugly incident involving Chris Simon (Ojibwa descent) and black winger Mike Grier.

Jarome Iginla being left off one 2002 Hart Trophy ballot: Much like Nolan’s claims, this situation isn’t cut-and-dry. There could be plenty of other reasons why one award voter left Jarome Iginla off of his Hart Trophy ballot altogether, but a subset of hockey people still wonder if racism was the true catalyst. (It ended up changing the voting process, so it was a significant moment either way.)

Modern players discuss dealing with racism: Before they became the Winnipeg Jets, the Atlanta Thrashers were trying to improve themselves on the ice and at the box office by adding a relatively large amount of black players to their roster. CNN caught up with some of the Thrashers’ black stars to ask them about racism in the sport.

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American History X and hockey: To finish things off with a random but interesting anecdote, Frank Meeink – a former skinhead who served as the loose basis for Edward Norton’s character in the film “American History X”began to dispel his racist viewpoints when he started playing ball hockey with black players.

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Hopefully this was an interesting snapshot of a troubling issue for the sport, but if you want to go back deeper into the history of black hockey players, click here.

Malkin on ‘workaholic’ Crosby, Penguins’ chances for three Cups in a row

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Evgeni Malkin shared some interesting observations with Sports-Express’ Igor Eronko this weekend, including that he believes that the Pittsburgh Penguins “have all the tools” to win a third Stanley Cup in a row.

Quite reasonably, Malkin notes that the team kept its core intact.

Of course, Malkin and Sidney Crosby are still the catalysts for the Penguins, so it’s always fun to come across the latest observations from the Russian star.

Good stuff.

It’s not surprising to see Malkin praise Crosby and pump up the Penguins’ chances. Last year, he showed confidence in Pittsburgh’s repeat chances and professed an interest in being on the same team with Crosby for the next “10 years.”

This summer’s been a great one for Geno, with plenty of team honors mixing with some great individual feats. For example:

Habs’ Byron got to skate(board) with Tony Hawk

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Montreal Canadiens forward Paul Byron is so speedy on the ice, his skating can sometimes be intimidating, particularly when he’s on the penalty kill.

Every now and then, we’ll see, say, a floppy-haired snowboarder also show some serious skateboarding acumen, and skateboarding seems to blend well with surfing to boot. So what about ice skating and skateboarding?

Well, Byron apparently got to meet Tony Hawk – along with his kids – and at least made a solid impression, as the Canadiens website notes.

“Paul can hold his own. I bet he’d do better on my board,” Hawk said. “It wouldn’t be so wobbly.”

The only bummer is that it doesn’t seem like footage of Byron skateboarding is available. There is some cute footage of Hawk with Byron’s kids, though:

Little B's turn💙

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There’s also Hawk skateboarding in a Canadiens sweater. Fun stuff.

(H/T to Sportsnet.)

Taylor Hall’s remarkable run of bad luck

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This post is a part of Devils day at PHT…

Taylor Hall deserves credit for that great “lottery ball specialist” tweet when the New Jersey Devils landed the top pick of the 2017 NHL Draft, but you could picture the star winger making such a joke while gritting his teeth.

You see, as much as Hall seems to be a luck rabbit’s foot for a team when it comes to landing the top pick of a draft – just consider his Edmonton Oilers days on top of this last bit – but that good fortune hasn’t always come from an individual standpoint.

In hopes that we may some day see Hall in, say, a playoff game, let’s recount some of his unluckiest moments. Keep in mind that he’s still just 25.

Injuries

He became the first pick of the 2010 NHL Draft, which means he’ll be compared to Tyler Seguin (though that discussion mercifully doesn’t come up that often).

Hall’s rookie season was limited to 65 regular-season games thanks to the ill-advised decision to fight Derek Dorsett. His first NHL bout ended his 2010-11 campaign; Hall received criticism for the choice, which sometimes overshadowed debuting with 22 goals.

It was reckless to fight, especially with someone like Dorsett, but we’ve seen plenty of players get through skirmishes without anything major happening. Jarome Iginla endeared himself to hockey fans, in some ways, by doing just that … but Hall wasn’t so lucky.

Even if you chalk that first bit up to poor decisions, Hall’s injury luck has often been poor. He was limited to 61 games in his sophomore season, 53 in 2014-15 and missed significant pieces of 2013-14 and last season, too.

Some of the injuries were just downright-freakish.

Click here if you want to remember the time he caught a skate in the head during warm-ups, which left him with a disgusting “Frankenstein” wound and … it’s just gross. If you haven’t seen it, you’re lucky.

While his speedy, courageous style might leave him susceptible to issues, it seems like Hall catches an unusually high number of bad breaks.

Terrible team to bad team

Taylor Hall has been a productive player, keeping his head up even as he’s played for some miserably bad teams.

The Oilers have been pretty clueless for virtually the entirety of Hall’s career; this National Post article provides a handy rundown of their mishaps in rarely finding decent defensemen.

Those struggles likely inspired the team to trade Hall for Adam Larsson, a steady Swedish blueliner.

It says a lot that Oilers fans voted massively in favor of the Oilers winning that trade in at least one poll, as most hockey people agree that the Devils ended up with the upper hand.

Team success can skew the views of certain players, something Hall knows too well as a frequent scapegoat in Edmonton. If you want to roll your eyes, peruse some of the “not captain material”-type takes that Hall likely became all-too-familiar with.

He didn’t even get to truly benefit from Connor McDavid‘s presence, as Hall’s bad injury luck seemed to transition to McDavid for a brief spell; as you recall, McDavid’s season was greatly limited by an lucky fall that came from the same sort of driving style you’d expect to see from Hall.

Who could blame Hall for being jealous of the Oilers’ success now that he’s gone?

New Jersey is making some nice strides toward being a more competitive team, and Hall’s a big part of that sunnier outlook. It has to sting to take all those steps back to the painfully familiar rebuilding stages after suffering through all of those with the Oilers.

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Look, Hall is nicely compensated for his play. He also was the top pick of a draft, so it’s not like he’s totally anonymous.

Still, it’s difficult not to root for the guy to soak in the accolades that come with greater team success, as Hall has been a fantastic power forward in some not-so-fantastic situations.

In other words, here’s hoping a little more luck goes his way … on the ice rather than in the carousel.

Poll: Nico Hischier vs. Nolan Patrick

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This post is a part of Devils day at PHT…

To some extent, the New Jersey Devils probably don’t care that much if Nolan Patrick ends up being slightly more effective, overall, than Nico Hischier.

As Taylor Hall can attest, the Devils lucked into the top pick of the 2017 NHL Draft, so GM Ray Shero was probably delighted that he would be able to pick between the two prospects. Rather than choosing Patrick or finding a trade, he made Hischier the first Swiss-born number one pick in NHL history.

Sports are about competition and comparisons, so it should be fun to measure the two forwards’ accomplishments and development as time goes along.

We might as well take hockey fans’ temperature now, though. Before we do, a quick “tale of the tape” – and an apology to the other prospects in the 2017 NHL Draft. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll be keeping this poll to Hischier vs. Patrick. Feel free to make a case for Miro Heiskanen (pictured, chosen third by Dallas) or any number of other candidates in the comments, though.

Hischier (draft profile): Scored 86 points in 57 games for the QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads in 2016-17. Broadly speaking, Hischier seems to rate as the most creative player and has already impressed the Devils with his skating ability.

Apparently his favorite movie is “Happy Gilmore.”

Patrick (draft profile): The Winnipeg native was on the radar a bit longer than Hischier, in part because he managed 102 points in 71 games in the WHL in 2015-16. Last season hurt his stock quite a bit; while he was able to score well over a point-per-game (46 in 33), injuries limited him in 2016-17. Those issues might have limited more than people even realized, as it turns out he needed two hernia surgeries instead of one.

Generally speaking, Patrick is praised for his two-way play, which could help him be a quick fit for Philly. Both forwards are listed as centers.

Oh yeah, and Reid Duke gave him the nickname “Doctor Pat.”

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OK, so with all of that information, let’s get after it: did the Devils make the right call or should they have selected Patrick at No. 1 instead?