LONDON, Ontario -- Two years after being victimized in a racially motivated on-ice incident that temporarily gave this charming city a black eye, the Flyers decided to not bring winger Wayne Simmonds back to London for their annual preseason contest.
Simmonds, a black player, had a banana peel thrown in his direction while skating in on a shootout attempt on Sept. 22, 2011 against the Red Wings.
The incident caused an uproar across Canada. Many fans in London stepped forward to help identify 26-year-old Chris Moorhouse as the offender.
Moorhouse claimed he was completely oblivious of any racial overtone when throwing the banana, saying that as a die-hard Red Wings fan, his only intention was to “distract the opposing team from scoring a goal.”
It didn’t work anyway. Simmonds was unfazed by the incident and still beat Jordan Pearce.
Initially, London police were not interested in investigating the incident, but that changed when Global Spectrum COO and Flyers president Peter Luukko lodged a complaint on behalf of Budweiser Gardens. Luukko said in a statement that the Flyers and Global Spectrum have “zero tolerance for that type of foolish behavior.”
Moorhouse ultimately plead guilty to “engaging in a banned activity,” a minor provincial offense in Ontario, and was ordered to pay a $200 fine. He also provided a written apology to London police and the NHL and planned to apologize to Simmonds.
Simmonds, then 23, was entering his first season as a Flyer at the time. He shook off the incident, saying sadly he’d “come to expect things like that” as a “black man playing in a predominantly white man’s sport.”
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and London mayor Joe Fontana also issued statements condemning the incident. Everyone wanted to believe the incident was isolated and not a reflection of the friendly city with a population just under 400,000.
The annual game in London is considered a “home” game for the Flyers, since Budweiser Gardens is one of more than 115 arenas managed by the Flyers’ parent company, Global Spectrum. They’ve visited London every fall since 2006, consistently selling out the 9,000-seat arena, conveniently located halfway between Toronto and Detroit.
This is the Flyers’ first trip back to London since the NHL’s lockout last fall wiped out the first half of the season.
Unfortunately, the incident in London was not the only time Simmonds has been targeted with racially motivated threats. Playing in the Czech Republic during the lockout, fans in Chomutov chanted “opice” (which translates to “monkey”) after he was involved in an on-ice fight. Chomutov officials later apologized to Simmonds and eight men were later arrested, charged and forced to stand trial. Simmonds left the Czech Republic after just two more games.
Simmonds will not play in Monday’s preseason game in Toronto either, located minutes from his hometown of Scarborough. He will remain in Philadelphia and be available for the Flyers’ split-squad contest against Washington.
Here is a list of players on the trip in Ontario:
SUNDAY, SEPT. 15 vs. TORONTO (LONDON, ONT.) - 6:00 pm (Comcast SportsNet, 97.5 FM)
MONDAY, SEPT. 16 at TORONTO (AIR CANADA CENTRE) - 7:00 pm
10 SCHENN, Brayden
15 McGINN, Tye
18 HALL, Adam
19 HARTNELL, Scott
21 LAUGHTON, Scott
23 HOLMSTROM, Ben
24 READ, Matt
25 TALBOT, Max
36 RINALDO, Zac
37 ROSEHILL, Jay
47 NOEBELS, Marcel
52 COUSINS, Nick
56 BROWN, Tyler
64 ALDERSON, Brandon
65 BORDSON, Rob
74 CLARKSON, Doug
08 GROSSMANN, Nicklas
22 SCHENN, Luke
26 GUSTAFSSON, Erik
27 GERVAIS, Bruno
38 LAURIDSEN, Oliver
39 ALT, Mark
41 MESZAROS, Andrej
75 GILL, Hal
33 HEETER, Cal
35 MASON, Steve
49 STOLARZ, Anthony
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