The Philadelphia Flyers and Detroit Red Wings met at London, Ontario’s John Labatt Centre on Thursday night for an exhibition game. The scene at these neutral site exhibition games is often one of pure fan jubilance, but a despicable incident during the shootout would serve as an unsought reminder of one of hockey’s demons. A fan tossed a banana peel from the upper deck directly into the path of Wayne Simmonds as he skated towards the goal.
For the uninitiated, it takes a special kind of ignorant inhuman piece of shit to draw and act upon the racist connection between a banana and a black man. As much as we like to think that hockey has become a much more culturally diverse game in the last 20 years, it hasn’t. The NHL is still made up of roughly 93% white men. Hockey hasn’t shaken its label as a ‘white man’s game’ and Thursday’s incident in London called out our naivety for thinking we were beyond this type of ignorance.
Perhaps what’s most shocking of all is that Simmonds, acquired from the L.A. Kings in June, was seemingly able to shake it off, chalking it up to another occurrence of racism that he’s had to encounter in his hockey career. Simmonds told Frank Seravelli that it’s just something he’s come to expect:
“When you’re a black man playing in a predominantly white man’s sport, you’ve got to come to expect things like that. 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.”
Hockey, and the NHL more specifically, has had no shortage of occurrences of racism in recent memory. Whether it’s racial slurs being used as taunts on the ice or some idiot fan acting on some atavistic impulse, incidents like Thursday’s banana peel tossing can deflate even the most optimistic observers’ hopes that a game can be devoid of intolerance. There’s still so much more work to be done…
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