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Wayne Simmonds skating by the Detroit bench
*On this date in 2011, a racial incident happened in a National Hockey League game.
The Philadelphia Flyers and Detroit Red Wings played in a neutral site exhibition game in London, Ontario. Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds was in the middle of his shootout attempt when a fan inside the Labatt Centre threw a banana peel in his path. Simmonds, a Black Canadian, still beat Red Wings goaltender Jordan Pearce.
Simmonds, who grew up a little over two hours from London in Scarborough, said, "When you're a black man playing in a predominantly white man's sport, you've got to come to expect things like that," Simmonds said. "Over the past 23 years of my life, I've come to expect some things like that. But I'm older and more mature now; I kind of just left things roll off my back. I try not to think about stuff like that." The perpetrator was not caught. Racism has been seen in hockey for many years. It's been prevalent in European soccer for some time, causing FIFA to begin its "Let's Kick Racism Out of Football" campaign.
The following morning, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman released a statement about the incident: "We have millions of great fans who show tremendous respect for our players and for the game. The obviously stupid and ignorant action by one individual is in no way representative of our fans or the people of London, Ontario." London, Ontario Mayor Joe Fontana said, "As Mayor, and on behalf of Londoners, I am sending an apology to Wayne Simmonds and the Philadelphia Flyers organization regarding the incident at last night's exhibition game. It was a stupid and mindless act by a single individual; however, it reflects badly on our entire community. London is a diverse and welcoming city, and we like it that way."
Through the Flyers, Simmonds released his own statement putting the incident behind him and looking ahead: "It was unfortunate that this incident happened, but I am above this sort of stuff. This is something that is out of my control. Moving forward, this incident is something I will no longer comment on, so I can just focus on playing hockey for the Philadelphia Flyers."