Simmonds leaves Czech team as fans arrested for racist chants


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 [] 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…


Czech club fined for fans’ racist taunts toward Simmonds

Blues’ Stewart leaves Czech team, heads back to Germany

Hitchcock going to more aggressive attack for Blues

Ken Hitchcock
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ST. LOUIS (AP) After three straight first-round playoff exits, the St. Louis Blues have learned to temper expectations.

They have been consistently among the NHL’s best in the regular season and realize it is past time to build something for the long haul. The sting still lingers from the latest failure, against the Minnesota Wild last spring.

“We’re all disappointed, everybody can agree on that,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “It’s never easy to kind of think about your failures, but we grow every time it happens.”

Management isn’t ready to tear it all down yet.

“We play, in my opinion, one of the toughest if not the toughest division in the NHL, and we’ve finished first or second in the last four years,” forward Alexander Steen said. “So we have an extremely powerful team.”

Maybe a change in strategy will be enough: Coach Ken Hitchcock is back with a mandate for a more aggressive, even reckless, style of play from a roster that hasn’t changed appreciably.

“We’re coming hard from the back and we’re coming hard to see how close we can get to the attack,” Hitchcock said. “I think it’s where the game’s at; I think it’s where the game’s going to go.”

The 63-year-old Hitchcock is pushing forward, too, unwilling to dwell on the flameouts. Coach and players agree that would be “wasted energy.”

“My opinion is when you sit and think about the past, you do yourself no good,” Hitchcock said. “If you learn from the past, that’s when you do yourself a whole bunch of good.”

There were only two major roster casualties. Forward Troy Brouwer came from Washington in a trade for fan favorite T.J. Oshie. Defenseman Barret Jackman, the franchise career leader in games, wasn’t re-signed.

“If you were expecting 23 new faces to be on the roster this year, I don’t think that was realistic,” captain David Backes said. “We’re going to miss those guys in the room and on the ice, but there has been some changeover and I think it’s pretty significant.”

Things to watch for with the Blues:

GOALIE SHUFFLE: Just like last year, there’s no true No. 1 with Brian Elliott and Jake Allen sharing duties. The 25-year-old Allen missed a chance to seize the job last spring when he failed to raise his level in the playoffs.

TOP THREAT: Vladimir Tarasenko had a breakout season with 37 goals and was rewarded with an eight-year, $60 million contract. The 23-year-old winger is by far the Blues’ most dangerous scoring option and said he won’t let the money affect his play. “I never worry about it,” Tarasenko said. “If you play good, you play good.”

NEW FACES: Brouwer and center Kyle Brodziak add a physical element that was perhaps lacking a bit last season. Brouwer has three 20-plus goal seasons and Brodziak, acquired from Minnesota, fills a checking role. Veteran forward Scottie Upshall got a one-year, two-way deal after being coming to camp as a tryout. Rookie forward Robby Fabbri, a first-round pick last year, will get an early look. Another promising youngster, forward Ty Rattie, begins the year at Chicago of the AHL.

RECOVERY WARD: Forward Jori Lehteri bounced back quickly from ankle surgery and opens the season without restrictions. Another forward, Patrik Berglund, could miss half of the season following shoulder surgery.

TRACK RECORD: The Blues won the Central Division last season and Hitchcock, fourth on the career list with 708 regular-season wins, has consistently had the team near the top of the standings. “He is our coach, tough cookies if you don’t like it,” Backes said. “From my experience, he puts together one heck of a game plan.”

It looks like Havlat won’t make Panthers

Martin Havlat

As PHT’s mentioned before, the Florida Panthers stand as a fascinating contrast between youth and experience.

Let’s not kid ourselves, though; fresh faces usually beat out gray beards, at least when it comes to teams that are still trying to build toward contender status.

While it’s by no means official, two Panthers beat writers – the Miami Herald’s George Richards and the Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Harvey Fialkov – report that the Panthers are likely to pass on Martin Havlat.

It wasn’t just about the likes of Jonathan Huberdeau and Nick Bjugstad leading the charge. Other young Panthers (maybe most notably Quinton Howden and Connor Brickley) made the team, thus making Havlat less necessary.

One would assume that it might be tough for the 34-year-old to find work, at least if he insists upon only an NHL deal.

Health issues continue to dog him, but he’s no longer one of those guys who tantalizes with talent when he is healthy enough to play.

Havlat also doesn’t really bring much to the table defensively. While other veterans can kill penalties and show a little more verstaility, Havlat’s greatest selling point is scoring.

Could this be it for a solid career that may nonetheless end with a “What if?” or two?