A RAW DEAL FOR SIMMONDS; HIGH PRAISE FROM JAGR
In the first case, he was a victim of an ugly racial demonstration when a fan at a preseason game in London, Ontario threw a banana at him during his shootout attempt.
In the second case, he was the victim of a peer talking out of school.
While the first incident was certainly egregious, it can easily take a backseat to the second because the latter involved another player breaking a code.
Here's the short story.
Simmonds and Sean Avery were jawing back and forth all night. It got heated. Much like many, many, many other exchanges in the pro sports landscape between rivaling players, things were said that were not for the ears of babes.
However, Sean Avery felt the need to bring it up with the New York media after the game.
If you want full transcriptions of those post game interviews, scroll down on the right and click on the link to this blog from last night. There is also video there.
From there, the New York media turned a typical on-ice exchange between combatants into a can-you-believe-he-said-that indictment of a hockey player with highly-regarded character.
We all followed suit here in Philly, writing about it as if it was breaking news last night.
Frankly, it's all pretty pathetic.
Avery is a crumb, for lack of a more printable word, for bringing this to light and turning it into an issue. He's the last person who should be talking about on-ice banter getting out of control, because, as many people pointed out last night, some of the things he said in the first period of last night's game, if taken literally, could have been construed as death threats.
Luckily, those of us who saw it or heard it have enough sense in our noggins to know that again is just part of the on-ice vernacular during a game. It's part of the machismo. It's part of the bravado.
Then again, this is Avery and as one player who played with him earlier in his career once told me, "Avery is the worst teammate I have ever had. It's not even close."
So if Simmonds used a derogatory word in an exchange of barbs between the two, it wouldn't surprise many rational folks.
Which is why it is disappointing that the New York media then took that ball and rolled with it.
They rushed to the Flyers locker room and requested Simmonds. The Flyers' forward took all their questions and gave non-committal answers for more than three minutes - but really, was this necessary?
Are there not worse things said on the line of scrimmage in the NFL? How about with all the chirping between dugouts over the course of a long 162-game season in major league baseball? You think all the trash-talking in the NBA just takes place on Twitter?
Curse words, derogatory comments and otherwise snide and often personal remarks are fired between hockey players in every game. It's part of the culture of sports. It's never going to change.
So just because one troublemaker tips off reporters about the specifics of one of those conversations, we have to highlight it as an example of intolerance?
Come on fellow hockey scribes, we are better than that.
So much happened in the game last night that I really feel the following stuff is being shrugged to the backburner, but there's some good stuff here.
First, Jaromir Jagr was very good for the Flyers with two goals and an assist. He especially looked good on the power play were he created a lot of space for Danny Briere and Claude Giroux.
When Chris Pronger is healthy and able to man the point on that power play, and big-bodied players like Scott Hartnell or James van Riemsdyk, neither of which dressed for yesterday's exhibition game, are parked in front of the net, this power play could be dangerous - a big upgrade from last season's inconsistency.
Here's Jagr after the game. Please pay attention to what he says about Giroux, who will be his linemate this season probably with JVR on the other wing. It's pretty effusive praise.
Q: You seemed to be especially comfortable on the power play, is that something that’s starting to come along here?
“The power play is the same everywhere, big ice or small ice, so that’s okay. We did it a little better than last game, and when (Claude Giroux) in the center it makes it a lot easier. He's that good. You guys have a good future here. Don't worry about anything. He's a little genius.”
Q: Does he remind you of anyone that you played with?
"(Me) when I was younger (a lot of laughter). He's a little Mario Lemieux. He's a little smaller but he can see and he's got great hands. You have to be watching all the time because you never know when the puck is coming."
Drawing comparisons to two of the 10 greatest point producers in NHL history is some kind of praise, especially when one of those players is offering the compliment, no?
Expect a lengthy suspension for Tom Sestito for his hit on Andre Deveaux. He came from a long way away to make that hit and the league, which has been laying the hammer down with suspensions in the preseason, will likely come down hard on him.
Q: Tom, are you concerned at all that there will be a hearing after what happened?
“Yeah For sure, I think there could be one. I hoping there is not. I don’t consider myself a dirty player. I am a person that is going to finish out my checks. And hopefully it wasn’t that bad.”
Q: Can you explain what happened on the play?
“Yeah, I saw him go down and he was on the ice and we were in on the forecheck and I was just getting there as fast as I could and I think he turned a little on me before I hit him.”
Q: How tough of a break is this for you?
“Yeah, it’s definitely not what I wanted to do – sit and watch when I’m supposed to be playing and showing them what I can do. But everything happens for a reason and I just have to bounce back and show them what I can do when I get the chance.”
And here's Paul Holmgren's reaction:
Q: For a guy like Sestito, doing a lot to make the team…
“That’s exactly right, trying to make the team and he got a little over zealous and that’s unfortunate. I haven’t heard anything yet but I do expect an e-mail or a call or a text or something. “