Wayne Simmonds – Defining Class

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His heart thumping inside his chest, the player takes to centre ice and awaits the referee’s whistle. With a burst of speed, he’s off towards the opposing goalie. Thoughts are racing through his mind. Should he go top corner or five-hole? Will a deke suffice or will he need to take a slap shot to get it past his adversary?

He is focused.

Nearing the goaltender, something inexplicable happens. While his entire mind is on helping his team win the game, an object from the stands lands in his view. Fans are known to be passionate and rowdy; they throw things in celebration and in fury, but this is something entirely different.

Last night in an exhibition game against the Detroit Red Wings in London, Ontario, Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds, one of the National Hockey League’s few black players, was stunned to find a banana thrown at him. As a professional, he commented on the incident with a calmness of someone much older and experienced than his 23 years of age. “It shocked me and knew I had to keep going and get a shot off. It was certainly unusual,” he said after the game. But anyone who has ever experienced racism surely knows the pain associated with it.

A second round pick in the 2007 Entry Draft, Simmonds grew up in Scarborough, one of Toronto’s most ethnically diverse areas. Yet despite this, he admitted that he has been the target of racism. “Over the past 23 years of my life, I’ve come to expect some things like that,” he said.

Racism in sports is nothing new. Soccer players in Europe have related stories of crowds chanting racist epithets. Closer to home, minorities playing predominately “white” sports like hockey face taunts at all levels. The isolation these players feel in an environment where they should be experiencing camaraderie is truly tragic.

Most of us only know Wayne Simmonds as a hockey player. But on a personal level, he handled himself with class and dignity in the face of crassness. Indeed, the only way to combat stupidity is with intelligence.

A.S. Hagi

A.S. Hagi

A.S. Hagi is married and is a resident of Canada's National Capital and a fan of its Ottawa Senators. He is a graduate of the University of Ottawa (B.SocSc'11) and is currently pursuing an MBA from the University of Southern Queensland.

4 Comments

  1. Wayne has shown the Hockey world just how much class he has. He has extended the highest level of strength and dignity, in knowing that if it make some jerk that has the lowest self-esteem to think he would get a positive reaction, Wayne has proved otherwise.
    I wish Mr. Simmonds a successful season, and as a loyal Hockey Guy, the comfort knowing that he has risen above this immature act.

  2. Mr. Simmonds,
    I am aware of the incident that occured in London, Ont. while you were plaing hockey. It is despicable that in this day and age such behaviour should occur. Let me assure you sir, having been raised by an “Archie Bunker”, it took me most of my lifetime to change my ways and have raised my children to respect all human beings.
    I am so sorry.
    Leo

  3. Mr Simmonds,

    Despite the fact that you may “expect” incidents like this to occur doesn’t make them right. The simple fact that I grew up in the Deep South doesn’t give anyone the right to call me the “N” word, even though it’s sadly still part of the climate.

    Nonetheless, I admire the way you handled yourself.

  4. I to have expeirenced racism and or sterotyping because of my nationality . It’s a SAD truth in society that there are people who think they are superior beacause of the color of their skin and the exact opposite is true in reality and especially in sports . The other truth is that these people are paying a price to see these great athletes compete at alevel that they only dream of which I beleive adds more fuel to the racism flowing in their coward laden blood and through their cowardly jealous hearts. I’m sure that if it came down to a face to face confrontaion that these racist cowards would be the first to run and hide in the darkest and furthest corner possible or behind their mommies dresses which ever was the closest . BE ASHAMED! BE VERYYYYYYYYY ASHAMED !All you cowards out there and YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE ! GOD BLESS YOU WAYNE ! YoU are admired and respected by more pEople than you know !

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