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Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds moves in for his shootout attempt against the Red Wings on Thursday...

Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds moves in for his shootout attempt against the Red Wings on Thursday night in London, Ont., after a spectator tossed a banana on to the ice. (TOM SZCZERBOWSKI/QMI Agency)

BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:21 PM ET

TORONTO - Nazem Kadri doesn’t recall the City of London being a haven for racists.

Guess he should’ve checked the fruit section at the local supermarket. Because somewhere in this southwestern Ontario city there is a banana-wielding idiot.

The moron, and we mean that in the nicest way, fired a banana onto the ice at the Labatt’s Centre just as Philadelphia Flyers’ Wayne Simmonds was preparing to participate in a shootout.

Simmonds, a native of Toronto, is black. We’ll let you connect the dots.

Since the incident, NHL players have twittered their disgust. Very laudable. So, we have come a ways since Willie O’Ree was welcomed to the NHL by a butt end from Eric Nesterenko that cost him two teeth and 22 stitches. We just haven’t come far enough. Local politicians are scrambling for damage control trying to convince an American media that they haven’t stumbled across Birmingham North and Bull Connor & his slavering police dogs.

“Ontario fan throws banana at Wayne Simmonds in shameful racist display,” says NBC Sports.

“Fan tosses banana peel at black NHL player,” says Fox News.

The story has made the Washington Post and is among the most-discussed items in the social media. It’s almost as if they expect the burghers of London to let loose with the fire hoses and legions of baton-wielding Canadian Crackers.

This is not the City of London that Kadri remembers.

“I’ve played in junior barns where people would spit at you or throw beer,” says the Maple Leafs’ first round draft pick who spent his junior career in London. But, then, just the wrong color uniform can bring the same treatment. As for being a victim of intolerance, Kadri, a Muslim, says he can’t ever recall being a target. “I never saw anything like that happen in London. It’s very uncharacteristic.”

This isn’t the first time Kadri has been caught up in the racism angle and hockey. In a world tournament he had a run-in with Switzerland forward Nino Niederreiter, who it was insinuated made derogatory reference to his ethnicity or Muslim religion.

Kadri denied that, too, at the time.

But, sometimes things do get said. It isn’t fair. It probably isn’t even an honest belief. That doesn’t make it any more excusable.

“There were some times when you hear crossed words with other players. But that’s stuff on the ice. It stays there,” said Kadri, then heading for a post morning-skate shower. Which isn’t a bad move. Hearing stuff like this can make a guy, even if he hasn’t worked up a sweat, want to wash away the filth.

Someone knows who the culprit here is. Someone knows where he is and if I’ve got this right he’s probably revelling in all the reaction he’s created. Someone should let authorities know, right?

Or, maybe not. “I’ve never had a banana thrown at me before. That’s a first for me,” Simmonds explained. “I guess it’s something I obviously have to deal with — being a black player playing a predominantly white sport. I’ve grown a lot playing in this league and throughout my whole life. I’m not going to dwell on that. It’s over with now. This incident is something that I will no longer comment on so I can just focus playing hockey.”

Maybe it is best to leave sleeping dogs to lie in their own filth. Even if he’s identified, what are our wimpy courts going to do? Fine the fool for being a litter bug? And, I’m not sure I want to know what the human version of a single-celled amoeba looks like.

Canadiens defenceman P.K. Subban has similar views. “It’s an unfortunate incident, but it’s not a reflection of hockey or the people in hockey,” he told CBC Friday. “We’ve got a lot better things to talk about than some ignorant fan ... by us even talking about it we’re giving him what he wants.”

But it’s difficult to ignore blatant ignorance. It’s hard to ignore when the evolutionary process appears before your eyes — and, it is working in reverse.

Maple Leafs’ coach Ron Wilson suggested that people should be careful not to judge an entire city because of one incident. “That’s one person doing something despicable,” said Wilson, who has spent more than 30 years in pro hockey. “I don’t ever remember seeing anything like that (when I played). Society’s a lot different today, we’re a lot more open-minded about other races, creeds or what have you, so the fact of the matter is, it’s just not right.”

No, it’s not right.

And, it wasn’t right either in 2002 when a fan in Montreal fired a banana onto the ice as Kevin Weekes, who is black, left the ice with the Carolina Hurricanes after a playoff game. “I’m extremely disappointed with what happened to Wayne Simmonds tonight in London,” he said via Twitter. “We’ve taken HUGE steps to grow the game of hockey, as I speak Willie O’Ree and I are in D.C attending the Black Congressional Caucus on behalf of the NHL & ironically this takes place.”

As much as times change, they stand still. As for blaming London, that would be simplistic and wrong. But hate can hide in the most curious crevices, even in the bucolic countryside of southwestern Ontario, even in an inclusive mosaic of pro sports in 2011. For instance, in a small town not far from London stands an iconic building dedicated to fleeing southern slaves. It is a source of pride for the town, and should be. But even there, in an oasis of forbearance, not far down the road in the 1960s there was a restaurant in town.

No blacks!

If it can happen there, it can happen anywhere. In Canada. In the NHL. It only takes one creep. And a banana. Pity.


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