Flyers' Simmonds denies claims by Rangers' Avery of a gay slur

Wayne Simmonds will not be fined or suspended.
Wayne Simmonds will not be fined or suspended.
Posted: September 28, 2011

Wayne Simmonds, the new Flyers winger mired in controversy in his last two preseason games, denied Sean Avery's claim that he shouted a homophobic slur at the New York Rangers forward in Monday's preseason game at the Wells Fargo Center.

Simmonds, 23, was told to explain himself Tuesday in a phone conversation with Colin Campbell, the NHL's vice president of hockey operations.

"He asked me if I called him a gay slur, and I said: 'No.' I said a lot of other things, but that wasn't one of them," Simmonds said.

In Simmonds' previous game, in London, Ontario, a spectator threw a banana onto the ice at Simmonds in an apparent racial gesture. Simmonds is one of the league's few black players.

"I'm getting press for things I wouldn't like to get it for," Simmonds said after Tuesday's practice in Voorhees. "I'd rather see myself getting press for my play; instead, it's other things."

On Tuesday night, the NHL said that it did not find proof that a gay slur had been used and that no fine was forthcoming.

"None of the on-ice officials close to the altercation in question heard any inappropriate slurs uttered by either of the primary antagonists," Campbell said in a statement, adding that if additional information shows that a slur was used, the NHL could "revisit the matter."

Simmonds could have been fined as much as $2,500, an NHL official said.

Acquired in the deal that sent Mike Richards to Los Angeles, Simmonds said he became incensed when he heard Avery say, "I really don't want to have to kill . . . [Claude] Giroux," among other comments.

During the Flyers' 5-3 win Monday, Simmonds and Avery constantly harassed each another. Avery is known as one of the league's top instigators.

"We had a battle going on since the beginning of the game," Simmonds said. ". . . It's Philly against the Rangers. It's a battle."

At one point, Simmonds wanted to drop the gloves with Avery, who declined.

Avery "had an opportunity to have some fun last night, and he just chose not to," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "Let's move on. Let's talk about something worthwhile."

Through the years, Avery has had run-ins with several players, including the Flyers' Scott Hartnell.

"He's always chirping. When I was going through my divorce, he was chirping to me about that," Hartnell said. "Some things can't be talked about, but from him, I didn't expect anything less."

Hartnell turned sarcastic.

"Like I'm sitting here crying about what he said, and [it] hurt my feelings," he said. "I think I fought him a few times and beat him up a few times. Words don't hurt."

Meanwhile, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), which described Avery as a "marriage-equality advocate," called for Simmonds to apologize for the alleged slur and asked the NHL and Flyers to educate fans about hate talk.

Injury updates. Hartnell passed a stress test and was cleared to play in the final two exhibitions. He had an elevated heart rate Friday in Detroit.

The doctor's guess as to what happened?

"Working too hard out there," Hartnell said, smiling. "Laviolette would say the exact opposite, but I'll stick to working too hard."

James van Riemsdyk, Brayden Schenn, and Andreas Nodl are nursing injuries that general manager Paul Holmgren called "minor." All three will miss Thursday's game, and there's a good chance van Riemsdyk won't play until the Oct. 6 opener in Boston, Holmgren said.

Holmgren said he was "very optimistic" defenseman Chris Pronger would be ready for the opener, even if he doesn't play in the final two preseason games. Pronger is returning from back surgery.

Breakaways. Winger Tom Sestito, who is expected to be disciplined for a five-minute boarding major Monday, was placed on waivers. The Flyers hope that he clears waivers and can be sent to the AHL's Phantoms. . . . Holmgren said the Flyers probably won't make a decision on whether impressive rookie Sean Couturier makes the team "until after the weekend at the earliest." . . . Zac Rinaldo, another rookie, appears to have locked up a roster spot. 


Contact staff writer Sam Carchidi at 215-854-5181, scarchidi@phillynews.com, or @BroadStBull on Twitter.

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