In this morning’s roundup of notable NHL headlines: More fallout from what’s being called “The Banana Scandal”…Jaromir Jagr has a strong preseason debut with the Flyers…So did Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi with the Wild…Peter Mueller returns to the ice…Jason Williams hopes to make the Penguins suffers a setback…The latest on the Devils ownership saga…Looking at the “mystery man” behind a recent failed bid for the St. Louis Blues.
FACEOFF.COM: cited “sports experts” called on the NHL to take a “zero tolerance” stand on racism in the wake of a fan tossing a banana peel at Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds during a recent exhibition game in London, Ontario, while calling on the league to make itself more inclusive to minorities for the game to survive. Former NHLer Georges Laraque wants London to be made an example, calling on the NHL to ban further exhibition games there until the suspect comes forward. Hockey Canada’s Glen McCurdie called incidents of racism in Canadian hockey “few and far between”, but acknowledged the issue still needs to be discussed, noting the face of hockey is changing in the country. Retired sports psychologist Paul Dennis pointed out skill, not race, remains the determining factor in hockey success.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Given the widespread outrage from around the NHL, at every level, to what happened to Simmonds, it’s clear the league as a whole takes a dim view of racism. I don’t doubt, as David Shoalts of The Globe & Mail recently observed, subtle racism still exists in the NHL, but I believe those folks are in a distinct minority, one that will only continue to shrink over time, and their views aren’t representative of the majority of those in the league at every level.
Calling on the league to ban further exhibition games in London until the jerk who tossed that banana peel is caught or comes forward is akin to burning down the house to get the flies out of the living room. It’s over-reaction, won’t resolve anything, and it is unfair to punish an entire city for the reaction of one idiot. The mayor of London quickly came forward to express his outrage over the incident, and I daresay he speaks for the overwhelming majority of Londoners.
While racism obviously existed to some degree in the sport since Willie O’Ree became the first black NHL player in 1958, the reason the sport still has a predominantly white face has more to do with the demographic background of the countries where the sport is at its most popular, especially Canada, than to racism. In recent years it’s been very apparent the face of hockey is changing and growing more diverse, and the NHL has embraced that change with its diversity programs. Skill, not skin colour, still determines who makes the NHL, and we’re going to see more players of different ethnic backgrounds playing in the NHL in the coming years, thanks to both a combination of NHL players past and present – like Simmonds, O’Ree and Laraque – serving as examples to aspiring players of different ethnic backgrounds, and the changing demographic in hockey-mad countries like Canada.
As for dumping on the fans who didn’t either grab the banana-hurler or haven’t turned him in, I understand the outrage, but it also could’ve happened so quickly that those seated around the guilty party simply may not have had time to react, especially if that person legged it as soon as they tossed the banana. Remember, it happened during a shoot-out, meaning attention was riveted on the action on the ice, not on what their fellow fans were doing. That being said, if there is someone who knows who the guilty party is, they should come forward immediately and turn them in.
PHILLY.COM: reports Jaromir Jagr had a strong debut with the Philadelphia Flyers in his preseason debut, with a goal and an assist in a 3-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Friday.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: A good start, no doubt, but it remains to be seen how well the 39-year-old Jagr will do over the course of an 82-game regular season.
STARTRIBUNE.COM: reports Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi also had a strong preseason debut, with Heatley getting three points and Setoguchi two in a 4-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Mikko Koivu centered the pair, and if this game was any indication, the Wild could have something they haven’t had in a long time: a lethal first line.
DENVER POST: reports Avalanche forward Peter Mueller played his first significant game since suffering a concussion a year ago.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Good to see Mueller continues to make strides in his comeback, and hopefully he can stay concussion-free for the rest of his NHL career.
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: reports Jason Williams’ hopes of earning a regular roster spot with the Penguins may have suffered a setback due to a recent groin injury.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Williams is under a two-way contract, and this injury could result in his demotion to the minors.
NEW YORK POST: reports New Jersey Devils co-owner Ray Chambers has agreed to pay $25 million to divest himself of his 47 percent stake in the team, a move the Post suggested highlights the shaky financial situation of the Devils as well as the “caustic relationship” between Chambers and primary owner Jeff Vanderbeek.
THE GLOBE AND MAIL: David Shoalts recently examined the background of Max Chambers, whose $167 million offer to purchase the St. Louis Blues was rejected by the club’s current ownership.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: After reading Shoalts’ story, it certainly explains why Chambers’ offer was rejected.