Player Agent Norton Offers Reward for Info Leading to Identity of Racist

By David Strehle
NHL H
ot Stove Managing Editor

By now most everyone in the hockey community has heard about the reprehensible and cowardly act of some idiot in the stands at the John Labatt Centre, London, Ontario during the exhibition game last night between the Detroit Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers.

The Background

For those who have been without internet or smart phone access, or stranded on a desert island for the past 26 hours, here’s a brief recap of what occurred:

The game was not available to watch in the Philadelphia area as it was not televised, and the live stream available on the Flyers’ official website was not working properly.  So for those of us interested in the play of some of the rookies battling for roster spots, as well as the players that are new to the team through the numerous summer transactions, details would only be forthcoming via Twitter from the club’s group of beat writers.

Simmonds (Photo credit: AP Wire photo)

One of the players of interest in this pre-season has been winger Wayne Simmonds, who was acquired from the Los Angeles Kings along with Brayden Schenn in exchange for former-Flyer captain Mike Richards in one of the summer’s largest-scale blockbuster trades.

And Simmonds has been one of the club’s best players, scoring a goal in each of the two games in which he has appeared.

With the Flyers trailing Detroit 3-1 and less than three minutes left in regulation, goals by James van Riemsdyk (his second of the night, with 2:45 remaining) and Simmonds (with just 53 seconds on the clock), sent the game into overtime.

No winner was determined in the extra five minutes, so the contest would be decided in a shootout.

Philadelphia was the first team to shoot, and Simmonds was the Flyers opening shooter.  When I saw what transpired next through Frank Seravalli of the Daily News, I had to read his tweets multiple times because I didn’t think what I was reading could be correct:

@DNFlyersFrank Seravalli
Someone threw a banana from the stands at Wayne Simmonds as he was going in on a shootout. Totally uncalled for and wrong. He still scored.”
@DNFlyersFrank Seravalli
And I’m not kidding you, it was a banana. I need to get confirmation when I go down to the locker room. #stunned

Simmonds, 22-years-old and a native of Scarborough, Ontario, happens to be an African-Canadian.  The cruel intentions of the person responsible was equal parts transparent and stomach-turning.

CSNPhilly.com contributor Jabari Young had posted a story entitled “Simmonds Proud to Represent Black Hockey Players“ just two days earlier.  In Young’s piece, these paragraphs offer an incredible irony:

When he finally pursued the sport on his own, Simmonds said he never encountered anyone who didn’t believe he could succeed because of his race.

No one really ever told me that,” Simmonds said.  “I had my family with me every step of the way.  They were always telling me that I could do it, that anything I put my mind to, it’s possible.  So, I think that helped me out a lot.”

In fact, Simmonds said that race-based negativity in hockey “really doesn’t happen in Canada.  That’s pretty much the way it is.”

At the suggestion of The Hockey Guys’ Dustin Leed, SB Nation’s Broad Street Hockey, one of the leading resources of information about the team, provided an outlet for fans to show their support for the rugged winger.

A couple of Simmonds’ friends – who are also NHL players – were quick to lend their support via Twitter:
San Jose Sharks forward and London, Ontario-native Logan Couture:
@LogancoutureLogan Couture
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.”
Chris Stewart of the St. Louis Blues:
@CstewSTL25chris stewart
The incident that happened in london tonight involving my best friend wayne simmonds was simply disgusting, its 2011 ppl need to grow up

Philadelphia Inquirer beat writer Sam Carchidi was able to talk to the President of Comcast-Spectacor, Peter Luukko, who was in attendance.

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to identify the individual,” he said.  ”We certainly don’t condone such a foolish act (like this) as a player could potentially be seriously injured. This is 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.”

A Player Agent Steps Up

Everyone weighing in on the despicable act were justifiably appalled, and many offered their support for Simmonds via social media platforms Facebook and Twitter.  Many vented their anger over the insensitive act of ignorance, but NHL player agent Scott Nortonwasn’t satisfied with just letting it go at that.

Norton, who is an ardent advocate of people helping one another through random acts of kindness with his Make My Day Mondays on Twitter, wants more done to the perpetrator than just having a few harsh words aimed at an unknown stranger – he wants the person to be identified.  Just before midnight via Twitter, Norton offered to put up a $500 reward for information leading to the identity of the “#RacistPig”:

@NortonSportsScott Norton
As a friend of #Simmonds + his Agents, I will personally put up $500 reward 4 anyone who turns in #RacistPig to myself or police! #MMDM

Throughout the next several hours on Twitter, others offered to add money to the reward total out of their own pockets.

Having had the privilege of dealing with Norton previously for the “Make My Day Mondays” article, as well as another on the NHL’s failure to market its players correctly, I contacted him to get his thoughts regarding what he hoped to accomplish by unveiling the identity of the racist.

As usual, Norton was straightforward and not one to mince words in this exclusive statement offered to NHL Hot Stove:

I went public last night with a $500 reward for information which leads us to the #RacistPig who threw the banana peel on the ice last night in London, ON.  I find this type of activity despicable in this day and age, and thought as a society, we were well beyond this.  I am not, in anyway, intimating that this person is from London or even Canadian, but I do believe that the fans, the arena security, the London police department and the National Hockey League need to step forward in identifying and making an example out of this terrible person.

When I get the identity of this criminal, I would hope that he would not only be arrested for throwing debris on the ice during a game, but that the NHL and the Canadian Hockey League would ban this person from EVER attending another game.

This is 2011, and an act like this can not be swept under the rug with a statement from the Mayor of London or Gary Bettman.  Actions must be taken to apprehend this individual in hopes that we never have to hear of this again.”

One of the heaviest-hitters in NHL media, TSN’s Bob McKenzie, thought all the attention was exactly what the perpetrator was after:

@TSNBobMcKenzieBob McKenzie
It can’t be ignored but the more attention it gets, I can’t help but think the idiot is getting exactly what he was after…his 15 minutes.”

Many, including Norton, disagreed.

@NortonSportsScott Norton
@TSNBobMcKenzie Hey Bob, hate to disagree, but act this despicable needs attention in this day and age, so never happens again. #RacistPig
Seravalli felt similarly.
@DNFlyersFrank Seravalli
15 minutes of fame or report on a person who runs onto a field. How is this similar? This was a racial attack on a player, not a fan
The Daily News beat writer continued, making a great point about the media storm that would have been created had the incident occurred in another major league sport:
@DNFlyersFrank Seravalli
Not necessarily a fan looking for 15 min of glory. How can you not cover it? Could you imagine what this would have been like in NFL or MLB?

Norton is right, this person needs to be fingered and made to be an example – and not only because of the awful connotation of the disgraceful act – but also before someone’s career could be ended due to an injury suffered because someone in the stands threw an object onto the playing surface.

Simmonds Addresses Subject for Last Time

Simmonds offered his own final words on the subject late this morning, via the Flyers official website:

It was unfortunate that this incident happened, but I am above this sort of stuff.  This is something that is out of my control.  Moving forward, this incident is something I will no longer comment on, so I can just focus on playing hockey for the Philadelphia Flyers.”

That’s the way it should be, with Simmonds being able to just concentrate on playing hockey.


If you have any comments or questions, you can email the author at dstrehle@nhlhotstove.com.  You can also follow him on Twitter – @David_Strehle