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Sean Avery accuses Wayne Simmonds of making homophobic remarks during preseason game

Sep 26, 2011, 11:28 PM EST

New York Rangers v Philadelphia Flyers Getty Images

People who follow the New York Rangers-Philadelphia Flyers’ rivalry should be accustomed to games getting very contentious. That being said, tonight’s preseason match featured more than just bad blood.

There were two incidents that will leave many shaking their heads, but the headline-grabber involved Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds. Simmonds is being accused of making some off-color remarks to Sean Avery less than a week after he dealt with a disgusting display of racism from at least one fan in London, Ontario. Simmonds didn’t really deny making the comments, although he didn’t confirm them either.

Puck Daddy’s Ryan Lambert pointed to a video that indicates that Simmonds made a homophobic comment to Avery. Various sources report that Avery confirmed those rumors, while Simmonds vaguely said that “language was exchanged.” Simmonds said he didn’t recall the specific words he said, a response that left many rolling their eyes.

Here are some quotes from both sides. (For a full video of Simmonds’ comments, click here.)

“To be here now having to answer the questions about what he did is disappointing for me. I’m disappointed for him,” Avery said.

(snip)

“Honestly, we were going back and forth for a while there,” Simmonds said. “I don’t recall everything that I did say to him but he said to me some things I didn’t like and maybe I said some things that he didn’t like. I can’t recall every single word I said.”

The incident gains relevance because it was Simmonds and Avery

It’s naive to assume that these types of comments are uncommon in sports, as sad as that might be. This case is more noteworthy because of the two parties involved, though. Some might lose some respect for Simmonds after tonight, especially after what happened last week. (That seems unfair since Simmonds didn’t make a big deal about the awful banana-throwing incident, but that won’t change the way some feel about this situation.)

Avery is also a notable recipient of that comment for two reasons.

1. Avery has been outspoken regarding the topic of gay rights, although it’s hard to imagine that Simmonds allegedly made those remarks for that reason.

2. On the flip side of the coin, Avery has been accused of troublesome comments of his own in the past. Georges Laraque claimed that Avery called him a “monkey,” although the Rangers pest denied that accusation.

Again, these kinds of comments might be commonplace in trash-talking, but that doesn’t make the situation acceptable. The bottom line is that both scenarios are extremely disappointing.

There’s some talk regarding whether or not NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan should take action. Some fans might insist that the league shouldn’t intervene in trash-talking situations, but Avery’s six-game suspension in 2008 is just one example of the NHL sidelining a player for a remark or gesture rather than an ugly hit. It’s tough to speculate about what might happen here – if anything at all – but there is some precedent to players being suspended for words or gestures rather than actions.

A more straightforward issue

Speaking of handing out suspensions, the Rangers-Flyers game might provide Shanahan with something a little less nebulous to deal with. As you can see from this video, Tom Sestito caught Andre Deveaux with a check from behind. In a twist that might seem fitting to some and stomach-churning to others, Sestito essentially replaced Jody Shelley, a depth player who received a hefty suspension for a check from behind. Sestito seemed worried about a possible similar punishment, while Rangers head coach John Tortorella said that the hit was even worse than the one Shelley delivered.

Jagr shines in an ugly game

The game was flat-out ugly through the first two periods, with the Rangers tallying 38 PIM and the Flyers ending up with 39. That’s not to say that there weren’t moments of beauty, though, as Jaromir Jagr made his home preseason debut a tantalizing one by scoring two goals and one assist in a 5-3 win.

Chances are, that nice output will be forgotten long before the Simmonds-Avery incident, though.

  1. 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Sep 27, 2011 at 12:02 AM

    And people are taking an accusation made by Avery seriously why??

    • ready4jets - Sep 27, 2011 at 12:30 AM

      Avery’s not making any accusations. Ryan Lambert made the accusation, and the video is pretty clear.

      • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Sep 27, 2011 at 1:02 AM

        Then this is even more of a non-story. I wonder how many times someone has called Avery something along the lines of a “f*cking f*ggot” before. Too many to count I’m sure. That insult is commonplace at every level of hockey, and while I’m not saying that makes it ok it certainly isn’t worth whatever controversy there is here

      • bcjim - Sep 27, 2011 at 8:59 AM

        So? Have you never been in a locker room or competed in any sport? There is a lot of ugly stuff said, I hate to tell you.

        Heck, one of our childhood games was called “Smear the queer”. Do they still play that?

  2. pkswally024 - Sep 27, 2011 at 12:54 AM

    This is ridiculous. Just Avery being a pest.

  3. Sam Christie-Sgro - Sep 27, 2011 at 12:56 AM

    “Again, these kinds of comments might be commonplace in trash-talking, but that doesn’t make the situation acceptable. ” Uh, why not? How many times do you see blatant mouth movements indicating players are saying some pretty nasty things. Trash talking is trash talking no matter what you say.

    • stakex - Sep 27, 2011 at 3:10 AM

      If Avery used the “N” word talking to Simmonds, you would not be saying that at all. Not to mention Simmonds would have been screaming at the top of his lungs in that case, not acting like its no big deal like he is now. In fact this would be a front page story. So why is it so much different because he made a homophobic comment thats almost certainly directed at Avery due to his support for gay rights?

      I’m all for trash talking. I actually play compedative hockey… and you would not believe the things I’ve heard out there (and things Ive said). So I am kinda split on this one. However, there ARE limits on whats acceptable and whats not out there on the ice.

    • nhlbruins90 - Sep 27, 2011 at 11:09 AM

      You know that’s not true. We all know that’s not true. You would be kicked out of the league if you used certain forbidden words.

    • spiffy53 - Sep 27, 2011 at 11:26 AM

      what you say on the ice is just a microcosm of what is acceptable by society as a whole currently in any heated argument. some things are acceptable currently that might not be in 10 or 20 years from now. just as what is forbidden currently was acceptable by society 50 years ago. i know when i play hockey, i can’t stand trash talking. however, some things opponents do on the ice drive me a little crazy and i will chirp back. so i would agree, i am a little split on this as well.

  4. 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Sep 27, 2011 at 1:10 AM

    Also, about the whole “Some fans might insist that the league shouldn’t intervene in trash-talking situations, but Avery’s six-game suspension in 2008 is just one example of the NHL sidelining a player for a remark or gesture rather than an ugly hit.” That was a premeditated comment made to the media, not a heat-of-the-moment comment on the ice. Big difference. I’ve heard worse stuff picked up by the ice level mics and nothing is ever made of it

  5. bigbear42 - Sep 27, 2011 at 1:28 AM

    This is the most eventful preseason Ive ever seen for the NHL. Holy crap its getting absurd.

  6. trbowman - Sep 27, 2011 at 2:31 AM

    Wayne Simmonds is right. And guess what people? Guys chirp at each other during a game.

    • nhlbruins90 - Sep 27, 2011 at 11:11 AM

      And if they call him a n*gga while they’re chirping away, they’ll be thrown out of the league on their ass.

      • joebarnes1 - Oct 2, 2011 at 1:39 PM

        That’s what will likely happen, though I say this establishes precedent and people can call him anything they want.

  7. 1historian - Sep 27, 2011 at 5:40 AM

    next stop – sensitivity classes taught by Rod McKuen and Dr. Phil, with the occasional visit from oprah

    • nhlbruins90 - Sep 27, 2011 at 11:12 AM

      Sort of like today’s sensitivity classes taught by Willie O’Ree?

  8. bcjim - Sep 27, 2011 at 8:56 AM

    Pfft.

    Dear Sean,

    Shut the h*** up. First of all, any complaint coming from you is immediately invalid. Second, this is called trash talk. It occurs on every sheet of ice/field/court/etc with players over 12 years old. Get used to it, pretty boy.

  9. icelovinbrotha215 - Sep 27, 2011 at 9:37 AM

    And how do we know Avery didn’t say the same thing back? The camera only catches what it wants to show. People forget that hockey is know for chirping. And it gets pretty personal too. Anyone who has played hockey knows that this stuff goes on all the time. That’s why USA Hockey is trying to abolish chirping. Is it right? Nope. But wasn’t Avery accused of calling George Laraque a ‘monkey’ but he denied it? This guy dishes it out more than you ‘Avery-apologists’ think he does.

  10. icelovinbrotha215 - Sep 27, 2011 at 9:41 AM

    Btw, Sestito, what were you thinking? Mental cramp much? I was hoping he would take the place of Shelly too. They need to keep Rinaldo and Read. Nodl has to go. Betts may have to go too.

  11. icelovinbrotha215 - Sep 27, 2011 at 10:34 AM

    Also Avery said that he would kill Giroux. Should that be taken up with disciplinarians too?

  12. nhlbruins90 - Sep 27, 2011 at 11:03 AM

    Most of the comments here seem to be along the lines of … guys have always done it in the past, so it’s perfectly OK now. Or that Sean Avery is no saint either. I love the trash talking too, and was glad to hear the uncensored chirping on last night’s game in Philly, but this is all missing the point.

    It was perfectly OK to call Simmonds a f*ckin ni*gga at one time (though not in his lifetime). It’s not now. It was the height of hilarity for some bozo to throw a banana his way at one time (though not in his lifetime). It’s not now. Fortunately, the banana throwing moron is the rare idiot. Idiocy will never go away.

    It was hilarious to play ‘smear the queer’ at one time, and still is in many quarters. It was, and to a large extent still is acceptable to call another player a fa**ot in the heat of the battle. It’s impossible for a professional hockey player to come out of the closet today, and I wouldn’t want to be the first down that road.

    The NHL is in a tricky spot. Like most big corporations, they do a lot of moral preening in public. Environmental bull**it, diversity, sensitivity and all that hogwash. Willie O’Rhee has carved out quite a career for himself being the NHL’s poster boy (oop’s I should have said man, I must be racist) for racial sensitivity and diversity. Way to go NHL, you’re hard at work fighting a 50-year old civil rights battle. What courage!

    The world outside the NHL is changing and the players are just a reflection of that world. What was acceptable in the past may not be so in the future. That makes some people uncomfortable. It always does. That banana throwing idiot probably wishes it was 1955. It’s not. Wayne Simmonds (and many more) probably wish it were 1985. It’s not.

    Too bad all this political stuff has to detract from the game, but the NHL has never been shy about dragging PC politics into the game. So it’s actually fun to watch them squirm.

  13. cowboysblowgoats - Sep 27, 2011 at 2:05 PM

    Isn’t calling Sean Avery a fa gg ot kind of like calling him……..Sean Avery.

    • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Sep 27, 2011 at 2:13 PM

      Hahaha somebody had to say it

    • nhlbruins90 - Sep 27, 2011 at 2:25 PM

      cowboy,

      Fifty years ago, you could have said “isn’t calling Simmonds a ni**a kind of like calling him … Wayne Simmonds.” Most people would chuckle and consider it harmless fun. Not so much today. Times change.

      Your witty, fifth grade humor no doubt gets a few chuckles today, but times are always changing. And it’s a lot less funny than it used to be. Maybe you actually are in the fifth grade and crack up all the guys with that stuff. Most of us aren’t in the fifth grade anymore, literally or figuratively.

      • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Sep 27, 2011 at 3:01 PM

        Well maybe 50 years from know this will be the same case. Right now too much is being made of it. I know gay people who say this kind of uproar over a simple comment is ridiculous, and I happen to agree. That insult gets thrown around so much on the ice it’s pretty much lost all meaning and it’s definitely not worthy of the sh*tstorm it seems to be creating here

  14. garryjercia - Sep 28, 2011 at 7:28 PM

    “Gary; somebody called me a homo!”

    Better put the league office on speed dial

  15. joebarnes1 - Sep 29, 2011 at 7:56 PM

    this deserves at least a $100,000 fine and a 10 game suspension

    • blkeskimo1785 - Sep 29, 2011 at 8:54 PM

      I think that is waaay over the top as a punishment. The way that it was handled was partially adequate enough. I say “partially” because it was handled by Colin Campbell and he doesn’t know s*** about consistency. A small fine would have been sufficient, but $100,000 and 10 games is going overboard. This isn’t the NBA.

  16. blkeskimo1785 - Sep 29, 2011 at 8:59 PM

    One thing that bothers me about this story (beating a dead horse, meh) is that the NHL claims there is no evidence of Simmonds shouting these homophobic slurs. That is ludicrous. I watched the replay on NHL Gamecenter Live (where, conveniently, Avery’s piece about killing Giroux has been “mysteriously” deleted) and you can clearly read his lips AND hear him call Avery said homophobic slur. Clearly.

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