LONDON, ONT. - Police have the name of a suspect they think tossed a banana at black player Wayne Simmonds during an NHL pre-season game here last week — a gesture many have decried as racist.
“We have information that’s been given to us ... and that obviously means a name has come forward,” Const. Dennis Rivest said Tuesday.
Despite online reports from some local radio stations that police had arrested and charged a man, a staff sergeant said Tuesday night those reports were wrong.
Police are expected to release more details about the case Wednesday.
More than one person who contacted police and the John Labatt Centre, where the incident took place, mentioned the same name, Rivest said.
Rivest wouldn’t identify where the person is from or any other details.
“It’s pretty tough to predict how long an investigation is going to take,” he said. “Hopefully, we have a resolution fairly quickly.”
Police announced Monday they had launched an investigation into the incident, which took place last week during an exhibition game between the Philadelphia Flyers and Detroit Red Wings.
As Simmonds, who is black, skated in on the Detroit net during a tie-breaking shoot-out, someone threw a banana on the ice. Simmonds skated around the fruit and scored.
The incident attracted national attention and has been widely denounced as racist.
Another banana was directed toward the ice earlier in the same game, also while Simmonds was on the ice, but the fruit didn’t make it to the ice.
As the fallout continues, Simmonds finds himself at the centre of another on-ice controversy. Sean Avery of the New York Rangers said Simmonds used a homophobic slur against him during a pre-season game Monday. Simmonds said he didn’t use a slur.
Former NHL goalie Kevin Weekes said earlier he believes the name and face of the person who threw the banana “should be plastered everywhere” to serve as a deterrent.
The NHL called it a “stupid and ignorant” action, and one American television network called it a “revolting act.”
Some fans have offered rewards for tips leading to an arrest, while Mayor Joe Fontana released a letter of apology to Simmonds.
The banana-tosser could be subject to a charge of “engaging in a prohibited activity” under the Trespass to Property Act.
Arena officials said people throwing things on the ice are generally ejected, but in this instance a person could be banned from the facility for a year or longer.