Caps’ Chimera signs with Czech team embroiled in racist taunt incident

Washington forward Jason Chimera has agreed to join Czech Extraliga team Pirati Chomutov, according to the team website.

The signing was also confirmed by Chimera’s agent, Alan Walsh.

Fairly or not, eyebrows will be raised given Chimera has agreed to join a team that’s been in the news for all the wrong reasons lately.

During a game on Oct. 28, Chomutov fans rained down racist chants on ex-Liberec forward Wayne Simmonds — “Opice”, which translates to “monkey” in English — and fallout from the incident has been widespread.

Chomutov officials immediately addressed the situation and sent an apology letter to Simmonds condemning the actions, but the club was still fined by the Extraliga.

Then, this week, the story was back in the news.

On the same day Simmonds and Stewart left Liberec, reports surfaced that eight Chomutov fans allegedly involved in the chants had been arrested and charged with “misdemeanor disorderly conduct and defamation of nation, race and other ethnic groups.”

According to iDNES.cz, the fans call themselves the “Black Commandos” and engage in the following behavior (from Puck Daddy):

[They attend] 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.

The prosecution has accused the fans of chanting “‘hu hu hu’, ‘Ku Klux Klan’ and the song ‘Dead Gypsy floating in the river.'” (Rough translation, but that last song is an extremist staple.)

The fans claim the “gypsy” song is an arena standard, aimed at the referees. As for the other chant, Pribyl is quoted by iDNES.cz as saying:

“Ku Klux Klan has always sung to We Will Rock You. Racism has nothing to do [with it].”

Yahoo!’s Nick Cotsonika spoke with Simmonds after the incident. The Flyers winger said nobody from Chomutov told him about the chants — he learned what they meant and learned of the club’s apology letter on the Internet.

More, from Cotsonika:

The Czechs were embarrassed. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and say they had the absolute best intentions. As defenseman Ladislav Smid said then, they didn’t want to make Simmonds feel uncomfortable. But their silence might have made him feel more uncomfortable.

Simmonds later told Smid he should have told him.

On Wednesday, Simmonds’ agent spoke to USA Today about his client’s departure.

“I don’t want to say it didn’t have anything to do [with the racial taunts],” King explained. “But it was a bunch of things that added up.”

Related

Simmonds leaves Czech team as fans arrested for racist chants

Blues’ Stewart leaves Czech team, heads back to Germany

Czech club fined for fans’ racist taunts toward Simmonds

Rangers make changes after loss in Anaheim

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The scuffling New York Rangers — coming off a 6-3 loss Sunday in Anaheim, and with just two wins in their last seven — are expected to have a slightly different lineup tonight in San Jose.

Up front, winger Matt Puempel is likely to replace rookie Pavel Buchnevich. And on the back end, Dan Girardi will come in for Kevin Klein.

The Girardi-for-Klein switch is no huge surprise. Both d-men have been battling injuries, with Klein only returning Sunday after an extended absence due to back spasms. Head coach Alain Vigneault told reporters that he “didn’t want to put two injured defensemen in at the same time,” so Klein gets the night off tonight.

As for the potential scratching of Buchnevich, that decision would be slightly more controversial. The 21-year-old has two goals and three assists in his last 11 games, but clearly has not gained the full trust of his coach.

Henrik Lundqvist is expected to start in goal after a tough return to the net against the Ducks.

Canucks hint at shutting down injured Markstrom

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It doesn’t sound like Jacob Markstrom will play any more games for the Vancouver Canucks this season.

The 27-year-old goalie has been trying to recover from a knee injury suffered in the Canucks’ skills competition on Feb. 26.

“I don’t think things are great,” head coach Willie Desjardins said today. “We’ve got to make a medical decision on him.”

It has to be frustrating for Markstrom, who was hoping to challenge Ryan Miller for the starting job this year. The tall Swede played well at times, going 10-11-3 with a .910 save percentage — but in the end, he only made 23 starts.

“He’s a good goalie,” Desjardins said of Markstrom. “He can challenge for the number-one spot. Every time he goes in net, I’ve got lots of confidence in him. He’s left his mark this year.”

Markstrom is signed through 2019-20, while Miller is a pending unrestricted free agent.

It’s possible that the Canucks will re-sign Miller and come back with the same netminding tandem next season.

Oilers sign Walter Brown Award winner Gambardella

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Joe Gambardella, the UMass-Lowell senior that scored 52 points in 41 games this year, has signed a two-year, entry-level deal with Edmonton, the club announced on Monday.

Gambardella, 23, captured this year’s Walter Brown award as the top American-born collegiate player in New England. He beat out the likes of Clayton Keller, Colin White, Charlie McAvoy and Tage Thompson for the honor, and joined a distinguished list of past winners.

Rangers forward Jimmy Vesey won the Walter Brown in ’16 and ’15, while Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau won it in ’14.

Gambardella is the first UMass-Lowell player to ever win the award, which has been given out annually since 1953. It capped off a nice year in which he also paced the River Hawks to the NCAA tournament.

An undrafted free agent, Gambarella’s ELC will kick in next season. It’s also worth noting that one of his UMass-Lowell teammates, defenseman Michael Kapla, signed with the Devils earlier today.

 

 

Coyotes to honor Cunningham for his ‘tremendous courage’

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The Arizona Coyotes will honor Craig Cunningham with a ceremonial puck drop on April 8 before their final home game of the season against the Minnesota Wild.

From the team press release:

Cunningham, who survived a medical emergency prior to the Tucson Roadrunners game on November 19, has made a remarkable recovery. Fans will have an opportunity to congratulate him on the tremendous courage, willpower and perseverance he’s demonstrated throughout his rehabilitation.

Cunningham was recently honored by the Roadrunners.

The 26-year-old’s hockey career is unfortunately over after doctors were forced to amputate part of his left leg due to concerns over infection.

True to form, though, he’s maintained a positive attitude.

“Obviously I miss playing every single day, and I miss the atmosphere around the locker room,” Cunningham said, per the Arizona Daily Star. “The guys have been great. From Day 1, they’ve been to see me every day. It’s been pretty incredible.”