In fact, Simmonds said that race-based negativity in hockey "really doesn’t happen in Canada. That’s pretty much the way it is."
This was in the context of getting the opportunity to play, and in that regard, nothing has changed -- the Flyers will certainly rely on him this year. Unfortunately, we were reminded tonight that the broader interpretation of this quote is no longer viable.
Today, as he skated in for his turn in the shootout, someone in the stands threw a banana at him. He scored anyway, but a preseason shootout isn't what matters here; the social implication was immediately the topic of conversation.
A few have suggested it might have been a vaudeville slip-on-a-banana-peel joke, that the player's skin color was merely a terrible and unlikely coincidence. Even if that's true, the inherent danger makes the act incredibly idiotic, so let's not excuse this act in any way.
I'm going to hope that we don't need to harp on how stupid this act was. There are certainly still racial struggles in this day and age, but I'm going to choose to believe that our readers generally choose right over wrong. There are certainly gray areas, but I'm going to choose to believe that our readers can see that this is not in the complex middle ground.
So instead of focusing on how horrible this act was or what should be done to the perpetrator, I want to focus on the response, and in particular how well the players handled it.
As Frank Seravalli reported, Simmonds himself said "I kind of just left things roll off [my back]. I try not to think about stuff like that," and said that what went through his head when it happened was that it meant he'd get a second try if he missed. That poise is incredible, that a 23-year-old kid can endure such an ugly situation and focus on the upside of the impact on his team, it's truly praise-worthy.
And around the league, players rushed to support him. Seravalli cited his teammates shaking their heads in disgust in the locker room, wishing they had the chance to stand up for their teammate. Twitter came alive, with players from Logan Couture to Paul Bissonette to Kevin Weekes to Chris Stewart showing their support. The Flyers often call themselves a family, and Simmonds has to feel some relief knowing that his brethren on the team and across the league are there to support him through anything that might happen.
The one response that disappointed me was the team's official statement from Peter Luukko. He focused on defending his brand with pronouncements about how nice the arena is and how great it has been to the Flyers in the past, limiting the reason for criticism to the danger the act posed. I wish he had come out stronger in support of his player, but I recognize that corporate responsibility is often required of a person in his position.
Seeing the players handle this ugly act well, getting through it and coming together in support is a strong silver lining to me. In the aftermath of an ugly event, rather than express outrage that such behavior still happens, I am focusing on the uplifting knowledge that we have come far enough that people react with an appropriate level of horror and rush to support the mistreated.
Please comment on Chemistry66's fanpost and join his teammates in expressing your support.