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A spectator threw a banana at Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds during an overtime shootout attempt in Philadelphia’s preseason game against the Detroit Red Wings in Ontario.
After the game, Simmonds confirmed it was a banana thrown at him and said of the incident, "I've never had a banana thrown at me before. That's a first for me. I guess it's something I obviously have to deal with—being a black player playing in a predominantly white sport. I've grown a lot playing in this league and throughout my whole life. I'm not going to dwell on that. It's over with now."
Simmonds said he hoped the gesture was not directed toward him for being black.
"Because if it was, that's just somebody being ignorant," Simmonds said. "When you're black, you kind of expect (racist) things. You learn to deal with it."
The fan who threw the banana was not caught, according to the Philadelphia Daily News.
One of the few black players in the National Hockey League, Simmonds had scored a goal earlier in the contest. There were also unconfirmed reports of a banana being tossed at Simmonds when he scored in regulation to tie the preseason game.
Of the shootout goal, Simmonds said, "At first, I thought I better get another shot if I miss. But I did score, so that was good."
A teammate who wished to remain anonymous told the Daily News of the incident, "I would have went and kicked that fan's (butt) myself. That's just not right."
Earlier this week in an interview with CSNPhilly.com, Simmonds said race-based negativity in hockey “really doesn’t happen in Canada. That’s pretty much the way it is.”
After the game, Comcast-Spectacor, which owns the Flyers and manages the John Labatt Centre in London, Ontario, where the game was played, released a statement about the incident.
Comcast-Spectacor president and COO Peter Luukko in a statement said, "It appeared as though a fan threw an object onto the ice during the shootout. Unfortunately, we weren't able to identify the individual. We certainly don't condone such a foolish act (like this) as a player could potentially be seriously injured. This is the ninth time we have played here in London and the fans have always been wonderful to us. The Flyers consider this our 'home away from home' and that's because this city, the fans and this spectacular arena have been so supportive of the Philadelphia Flyers."
This is not the first time a banana has been thrown at a black hockey player. Former Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Kevin Weekes had a banana thrown at him during a 2002 playoff series with the Montreal Canadiens in Montreal.
Weekes, who is now a hockey analyst for NHL Network, Versus and MSG Network as well as the co-host for CBC Hockey Night in Canada, took to his Twitter account to express his disappointment and disgust about the incident.
"I'm extremely disappointed with what happened to Wayne Simmonds tonight in London Ont. 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 :( There's NO place for this in sports since sport connects us not divides us."
O'Ree was the first black player in league history, making his debut with the Boston Bruins in 1958.
Sharks forward Logan Couture also took to Twitter to support Simmonds, writing: "Wayne Simmonds is a good friend of mine. To hear what happened tonight to him in my hometown us awful. No need for this in sports, or life."
Blues forward Chris Stewart also commented on Twitter, calling the incident disgusting. "The incident that happened in London involving my best friend wayne simmonds was simply disgusting, its 2011 ppl need to grow up.
Simmonds, along with Brayden Schenn, was acquired by the Flyers in a June trade that sent former captain Mike Richards to the Los Angeles Kings. The 23-year-old from Scarborough, Ontario, is entering his fourth NHL season.