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Let’s Not Make Controversial Isolated Incidents Hurt Hockey

The National Hockey League is making headlines for the wrong reasons. In particular one player has been at the center of controversy on two separate incidents that occurred during two different preseason season hockey games.

The first incident happened in London Ontario back on September 22, 2011. Wayne Simmonds, who plays for the Philadelphia Flyers and is a black athlete in the NHL, was in the middle of racial stupidity by a fan. Simmonds had stepped up in the shootout against Detroit’s goalie and as he skated down the ice a fan threw a banana peel onto the ice. Simmonds to his credit stayed calm and cool, scoring the goal. After the game, he was asked about what happened and he said, “It was an unfortunate incident. I think it is an isolated incident. This event does not speak for the entire hockey community. Simmonds was backed by his best friend, Chris Stewart of the St. Louis Blues. Stewart, the son of a Jamaican immigrant father tweeted after the game, “The incident that happened in London tonight involving my best friend Wayne Simmonds was simply disgusting, its 2011 people need to grow up.” Many players around the league echoed that same sediment.

The National Hockey League agreed with the players’ reaction to the event on twitter. The NHL hoped this action was an isolated incident and it does not reflect the feelings of the hockey fans in general. Hockey has opened up the game to minorities thanks to the “Hockey is for Everyone” campaign. The game has seen an influx of young black players come into the league with success. The fan according to numerous reports was arrested and charged for his action during the hockey game.

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Last Monday another incident involving Wayne Simmonds occurred. Simmonds allegedly used a homophobic slur during an altercation with Sean Avery of the New York Rangers. During the game Avery and Simmonds had been in a few shouting matches. After they were being separated Simmonds allegedly used a homophobic slur that Avery took offense too. Avery is a known instigation and he has been known to get under opponents skin. Simmonds said in a post game interview, “He was not sure what he said in the heat of the moment.” The video shows Simmonds yelling at Avery but it was hard to tell if what he said was the slur.

Simmonds had to meet with Colin Campbell, former director of Player Safety after the incident. Simmonds denied he ever said anything derogatory towards Avery. After the hearing was complete, the NHL did not suspend or fine Simmonds for his actions. Colin Campbell released a statement, “All players, coaches, and official in the National Hockey League deserve the respect of their peers, and have the absolute right to function in a work environment that is free of racially or sexually-based innuendos or derision. Since there are conflicting accounts of what transpired on the ice, we have been unable to substantiate with the necessary degree of certainty what said and by whom. We are unable to take any disciplinary action at this time.”

Mike Thompson, the acting president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) would like the Wayne Simmonds to apologize and for the Flyers and the NHL to educate their fans on why the words Mr. Simmonds said is unacceptable. Brian Burke, the General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, who supports GLAAD felt the NHL handled the incident the right way. “Until the league makes it clear that what Wayne said was a suspendable offense, no action can be taken.”

There is still debate of what was said or not said on the ice. One thing for certain is that the matter should be brought to the league right away not through the media. What is said on the ice should stay on the ice unless it crosses a line. Incidents like these should not be making the headlines for the NHL.  It should be the players on the ice. Hockey is growing in this county and the NHL does not need negative publicity after all that has happened in the offseason.

Verbal badgering among players in all sports has been going on for years. It is method to distract opponents. Most times the incident is forgotten after the game. The social media and political correctness cannot be allowed to make these types of incidents into statements for certain groups or organizations.

Whats Your Verdict?