LONDON, Ont. - Philadelphia Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds says he has experienced racism throughout his life and hopes what happened during a shootout loss against the Detroit Red Wings Thursday night wasn't another example of it.
The rangy forward, who scored in the last minute of regulation play to send the exhibition game into overtime and ultimately a shootout, took the first shot of the tie-breaker and admitted a bit of shock when a banana came flying into his path as he zeroed in on Detroit netminder Jordan Pearce.
"I don't know if it had anything to do with the fact I'm black," the Toronto native said. "I certainly hope not. When you're black, you kind of expect (racist) things. You learn to deal with it."
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman released a statement regarding an incident on Friday morning.
"We have millions of great fans who show tremendous respect for our players and for the game," it read. "The obviously stupid and ignorant action by one individual is in no way representative of our fans or the people of London, Ontario."
Kevin Weekes, a former NHL goaltender and current CBC colour commentator who is black, expressed his disgust over the incident on his Twitter account.
"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."
The Red Wings showed considerably more cohesiveness than the Flyers, who were playing their third game in three nights and go again against the Wings in Detroit Friday night. Some of that could be attributed to the massive house-cleaning the Flyers did in the off-season.
Simmonds is among seven newcomers, brought in to replace a total of nine players who have departed through trades or free agency. He brings a toughness and durability after playing in 89 straight games for the Los Angeles Kings, where he was third in penalty minutes.
As for his scoring in this one, he'll take them however they come. His shot from the corner went in off Pearce.
"I just fired it hoping a teammate could deflect it; it went in off the goalie's inside pad. But I'll take it. As they say, it's not how, it's how many."
The banana rattled him, he said, and his only thought was to get off a shot.
"It shocked me and knew I had to keep going and get a shot off. It was certainly unusual."
The Red Wings emerged 4-3 winners after dominating play for most of three periods. Darren Helm caught the Flyers flat-footed while killing off a penalty when he stripped Graydon Coburn of the puck at centre ice and zipped in to roof the puck over Mike Leighton's shoulder mid-way through the first period.
Valtteri Filppula gave the Wings a two-goal spread in the second until James van Reinsdyk snapped a rebound past Detroit starter Ty Conklin. Ian White pumped in a power-play screened shot early in the third period and the Wings appeared to be on their way.
But their defensive zone control they exhibited until then seemed to evaporate in the late going and Matt Carle on a screened power play shot, then Simmonds' score, extended the game.
The regular pre-season "home" game the Flyers have played at the 9,090 capacity John Labatt Centre since it was built in 2002 became Detroit's "home" game for this one. The arena is operated by Global Spectrum, a subsidiary of Flyers' parent company Comcast-Spectacor.
A crowd of 7,427 fans loudly backed Detroit and were invited on the arena public address system to consider various ticket packages to Wings' games.