Wayne Simmonds’ time in Europe has come to an abrupt end.
On Wednesday, Czech Extraliga club Liberec announced Simmonds and St. Louis Blues forward Chris Stewart had left the team — departures that, related or not, coincided with the arrest of eight fans alleged to have made racial taunts towards Simmonds during a Oct. 28 game between Liberec and Chomutov.
News of Stewart leaving the club actually broke yesterday, when it was announced he’d be rejoining German league team Crimmitschau, which he left in October to join to Liberec.
Simmonds’ departure seemed to catch the Czech club by surprise. That’s the impression one gets from a statement released by Liberec GM Ctibora Jecha (WARNING: Sketchy Google translate ahead.)
The end of the engagement Wayne Simmonds and Chris Stewart, we did not expect. Their course of action was very substandard and also in view of the fact that both had an interview a few days ago with a new head coach Philip Pesanem with which discussed the current situation and their future with the White Tigers.
We also meet their wishes not to go with us to match European Trophy in Bern, with regard to new negotiations in the NHL. This unilateral decision by the two players, came at a time when the whole production team traveled to Switzerland for a game with the players, there was no negotiation or consultation. Their decision was communicated to us by telephone through an agent…
…The player [Simmonds] told us that is some serious family reasons forced to immediately return home to Canada, and thus end their engagement in Liberec.
In the case of the continuation of the NHL lockout is not excluded by Simmonds return to Liberec in the Czech Republic has ever had a valid contract. This option but does not seem too likely.
As for the eight Chomutov fans facing trial for “misdemeanor disorderly conduct and defamation,” here’s Greg Wyshynski of Puck Daddy:
They face a hearing on Jan. 9, 2013, in Chomutov District Court and could be sentenced to a maximum of three years in prison.
The Czech site [iDNES.cz] reports that the rowdy fans calls themselves the “Black Commandos”, attending games in a black hooded sweatshirt and scarf, imbibing a considerable amount of booze before games.
(One of the accused fans, Radek Pribyl, said he had 10 beers and two shots but was only “mildly drunk” because he’s “trained” for that level of consumption.)
Some of the fans claim they joined the “monkey” chants but didn’t start them; others claim they didn’t join them at all.
It should be noted that, last week, Simmonds told Yahoo’s Nick Cotsonika he didn’t plan on letting the racist taunts affect him.
“I’ve enjoyed myself since I’ve been in Europe, and I intend to keep enjoying myself,” he explained. “That’s definitely not going to keep me down. I can tell you that.”
UPDATE: For more context on the situation, here’s Cotsonika…
On Simmonds, Stewart: In addition to the incident, they caught Liberec at a bad time. Team struggled. Coach resigned. A lot going on.
— Nick Cotsonika (@cotsonika) November 14, 2012