TORONTO (AP) — The NHL says calls it “stupid and ignorant.”
A banana was thrown from the stands in London, Ontario, on Thursday night as Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds was skating toward Detroit goalie Jordan Pearce during a shootout in an exhibition game. Simmonds is black.
“We have millions of great fans who show tremendous respect for our players and for the game,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement Friday. “The obviously stupid and ignorant action by one individual is in no way representative of our fans or the people of London, Ontario.”
Despite the disruption, Simmonds scored in the shootout, leading to a 4-3 Flyers victory.
“It shocked me and I knew I had to keep going and get a shot off,” said Simmonds, who is from Toronto. “It was certainly unusual.”
“I don’t know if it had anything to do with the fact I’m black,” he added. “I certainly hope not. When you’re black, you kind of expect (racist) things. You learn to deal with it.”
He also scored with less than a minute left in the third period to make the score 3-3.
Norton Sports, a California sports management group that does not manage Simmonds, offered a $500 reward for the identity of the banana thrower. The Twitter offer quickly drew others promising to add to the reward. As of Friday morning, Simmons was a trending topic on the social network.
The rare NHL game at the 9,090-capacity John Labatt Centre drew a crowd of 7,427.
Kevin Weekes, a former NHL goaltender and current CBC commentator who is black, expressed his disgust on Twitter.
“For those that asked: I’m extremely disappointed with what happened to Wayne Simmonds tonight in London Ont,” he posted. “We’ve taken HUGE steps to grow the game of hockey,as I speak Willie O’Ree and I are in D.C attending the Black Congressional Caucus on behalf of the NHL & ironically this takes place.”
San Jose Sharks forward Logan Couture, who grew up near London, posted: “Wayne Simmonds is a good friend of mine. To hear what happened tonight to him in my hometown is awful. No need for this in sports, or life.”
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.