As thrilled as I was that the Los Angeles Kings acquired Mike Richards in a blockbuster deal with the Philadelphia Flyers back in June, I was sorry to see both Bayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds go the other way. Speaking of the latter, after tonight's disgusting display, I am even sorrier than ever that Wayne Simmonds had to part ways with the Kings.
Tonight, London, Ontario hosted a preseason game between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Detroit Red Wings. Surely, as this was an exhibition game, nothing very eventful could have been expected. However, something eventful did happen and unfortunately, it's nothing to brag about.
During the game, Wayne Simmonds was preparing to take an in-game penalty shot. That's when the unthinkable happened. Fans began taunted Simmonds and if they were just harmless taunts that most players feel the wrath of, then fine. However, some fans decided to take things a step further as one fan had the gall to throw a banana onto the ice.
Maybe it was the innocent child in me but when I first heard about this, I had this hope that Simmonds inspired those taunts from something he said, perhaps making a childish crack about the city of London. Essentially, anything that wasn't race-related would have been tolerable. Sadly, that's just what it was.
Simmonds brushed off the first series of taunts and scored on the penalty shot. However, the abuse continued. This isn't even an issue of tonight's events, in particular. This, as you can imagine, is a seemingly-eternal issue of failing to look beyond the colour of someone's skin.
Not that anyone deserves this type of treatment but what is it about Wayne Simmonds in particular that ignited these fans to act in such a reprehensible fashion? To throw bananas on the ice? Being such an avid baseball fan, I've read so much about the disgusting abuse Jackie Robinson received upon breaking the sport's color barrier way back in 1947. Robinson had to travel from city to city being taunted with racial epithets, having opposing players intentionally sliding into him spikes first, being denied to eat in the same restaurants, sleep in the same hotels or using the same washrooms as his white teammates. After Robinson, unfortunately, the likes of Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Ernie Banks and Curt Flood had to deal with the unfathomable prejudice - and I'm just talking about one sport.
Not justifying what Robinson went through but 1947 was a much different time. As sad as it is to admit, that type of behaviour was commonplace in those days. But today? 2011? Just when you start to think more people will smarten up, something like this happens.
I'd suggest that the NHL should step in and take action but what type of action would they able to take? As far as I can see, there's nothing to do except announce that the league won't return to London, which is unlikely because you can't let a few bad apples cloud your judgement of one city. After all, this could have happened anywhere.
As I mentioned, having learned this, I'm even sorrier that Wayne Simmonds had to be traded. I certainly hope that he doesn't have to deal with this hatred in Philadelphia or anywhere else for that matter. I certainly feel for Wayne Simmonds but I can only imagine what this must be like for him. I sincerely hope that he can rebound from this.
It's unfortunate to have to write about this but a situation like this is just impossible to ignore. I, as well as all fans I'm sure, am sorry that Wayne Simmonds had to endure such deplorable behaviour tonight. The old adage, "Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger" applies to this and our old #17 will certainly be a better man from this.