DETROIT Jaromir Jagr has traveled the world because of hockey and seen just about anything.
Anything, that is, but blatant racism at a professional ice rink.
Though Jagr wasnt in London, Ontario, on Thursday when a fan tossed a banana on the ice at Wayne Simmonds during a shootout against the Red Wings, he was nonetheless stunned to learn about it.
Simmonds, born in Scarborough, Ont., is black.
Its a sad thing that in 2011 this should happen, if at all, Jagr said. Ive never seen this in my life. And I only heard it when I got here.
Its not going to affect him. Hes a nice guy, a smart guy. This is embarrassing for the fan who did it. It shouldnt be embarrassing to Wayne. I think hes smart enough to realize theres a lot of stupid people in the world.
The incident occurred at John Labatt Centre, often called the Flyers home away from home because it is managed by Comcast-Spectacor.
The 23-year-old Simmonds took the high road here in Motown, declining to talk directly about the incident, other than to say, he was appreciative of how teammates were supporting him.
Theres no point on talking about it, Simmonds said at Fridays morning skate. Id rather focus on hockey. I came to Philadelphia to play hockey and not talk about stuff like that.
He also released a statement saying he did not wish to discuss the incident further.
He said he had received unbelievable support from his teammates.
From Day 1, when I came in here, I was accepted by all the players on the team, Simmonds said. Everyone in here are great guys and Im excited to be here.
None of the Flyers interviewed could recall witnessing something along these lines elsewhere in their careers.
Its disturbing and disgusting but its just one person, not like it reflects on the whole area, Max Talbot said. You see the reaction around the league. Were all united. The majority of the fans and around the NHL think the same thing.
Indeed, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman released this statement:
We have millions of great fans who show tremendous respect for our players and for the game, Bettman said. The obviously stupid and ignorant action by one individual is in no way representative of our fans or the people of London, Ontario.
Talbot said he spoke with Simmonds on the Flyers bench during the shootout.
We talked on the bench and on the bus after, he knows, hes a smart kid and knows exactly its an isolated incident, Talbot said.
And I think he handled it with a lot of class. Thats basically, the only thing you can do. He told me he had been through it and it wasnt the first time it happened.
Assistant coach Craig Berube, who is Canadian and a Cree Indian, said he had never seen this happen in his 29 years of hockey from a fan standpoint, although he said its well-documented that players themselves sometimes utter racial slurs on the ice between themselves.
For instance, during a playoff game in May 1999 in Philadelphia, the Flyers Sandy McCarthy accused Torontos Tie Domi of dropping the N-bomb on me.
There have been other such accusations over the years involving players.
Theres always guys yapping on the ice but its nothing like that throwing a banana, Berube said. The person who threw that knew what he was doing.
Waynes a great guy. Hes personable, he fits in well, this isnt going to be a problem on our team. Incidents happen. Hes strong enough and smart enough to handle it properly.
James van Riemsdyk said Simmonds got a strong showing of support from his teammates after the game.
You think weve come a long way as a country and then you see something stupid like that happen and say its one moron ruining it for everyone else, van Riemsdyk said. Simmer has handled it very well.
I didnt even know until after the game what actually happened. It makes you a little sick to your stomach that someone would be that disrespectful in a venue like that especially, at a professional hockey game to see something stupid like that. Theres no place for that.
Hes handled it very well, taken it in stride. Im sure hes disappointed but hes handled it very well.
Flyer president Peter Luukko, who is also president of Comcast-Spectacor, said in a statement released to reporters at the scene, Unfortunately, we werent able to identify the individual. We certainly don't condone such a foolish act like this as a player could potentially be seriously injured.
This is ninth time we have played here in London and the fans have always been wonderful to us. The Flyers consider this our home away from home and that's because this city, the fans and this spectacular arena have been so supportive of the Philadelphia Flyers.
Sources say the arena has located the seat the fan was sitting in and is interviewing witnesses.
According to Btian Ohl, General Manager of the John Labatt Centre, "Global Spectrum is asking anyone with any information on the incident last evening to come forward and contact us at once. We will not tolerate this type of conduct at the John Labatt Centre and if we are successful in catching the culprit, we will prosecute the individual to the fullest extent of the law."
There are numerous Tweets on-line, offering cash rewards for the person responsible.
E-mail Tim Panaccio at firstname.lastname@example.org