Former NHL goalie Kevin Weekes called for the NHL and local authorities to aggressively pursue and prosecute the fan who tossed a banana peel at Philadelphia’s Wayne Simmonds in an apparent racist attack during an NHL preseason game in London, Ont., on Thursday night.
Weekes also called out the spectators who did not identify the rogue fan to security. The fan, according a report in the London Free Press, has yet to be identified.
Fans “shouldn’t pretend they don’t know who did it,” said Weekes, who is also black and now works as an analyst for the NHL Network. “No, you know who did it. Right away, security should have grabbed that person and then let the local law enforcement on site take it from there. It’s not like people didn’t know who was sitting beside them. We need people to police themselves. Shame on all of those people who were sitting beside him.”
I caught up with Weekes this afternoon in Washington. He, along with Willie O'Ree and others, are leading an NHL delegation attending the Congressional Black Caucus at the Convention Center. O’Ree, the first black NHL player, was declining all interview requests, Weekes said.
“We all looked at each other across the table [Thursday night] like, ‘Did we just hear this? Did this really happen?’” Weekes said. “We were in disbelief. But at the same time, as much as it’s disheartening and despicable, I can understand why it happened. The reason why I can understand why it happened is because there is still a segment of people out there who still have this mindset.”
If the fan is identified, Weekes added, the NHL should take a strong stance in an effort to deter future incidents.
“Whether it’s a lifetime ban, or a two-year ban, or whether they are charged with disrupting the peace or intent to injure, whatever the case, it needs to be dealt with on that level,” he said. “The National Hockey League needs to implement some very harsh punishment for these people. Because, ultimately, who does it reflect back on? It reflects back on our league and our game. It looks terrible. This isn’t the type of publicity we want for our game. We’re 10 days out from opening night.”
Weekes had a banana thrown at him in Montreal during the 2002 playoffs. At the time, he was Carolina’s goalie.
Having lived through the same scenario, Weekes added that he understands why Simmonds has shied away from condemning the incident.
“I couldn’t say then what I really wanted to say now because I was playing,” Weekes said. Simmonds “handled it classy because he kind of diffused it, and I did the same thing. He’s young and at the front of his career. For me, I now have the freedom of speech. I don’t have to worry about, ‘Okay, well, I’m not going to start for five games or I’m not going to get that contract.’ Those days are over. I can be that voice.”