- Associated Press - Friday, September 23, 2011

DETROIT (AP) - Wayne Simmonds should have been able to talk about what a fine first impression he’s made on his new team.

After scoring in the final minute of Philadelphia’s game in London, Ontario, on Thursday night, Simmonds found the net again in a shootout _ but it was what happened while he was in the process of scoring that second goal that stole all the headlines.

A banana was thrown from the stands as Simmonds skated toward Detroit goalie Jordan Pearce, marring the end of an exhibition game that was played about 120 miles from Simmonds‘ birthplace of Scarborough, Ontario. Simmonds, who is black, issued a statement Friday, before the Flyers and Red Wings played again in Detroit.

“It was unfortunate that this incident happened, but I am above this sort of stuff,” he said. “This is something that is obviously out of my control. Moving forward, this incident is something that I will no longer comment on so I can just focus on playing for the Philadelphia Flyers.”

Simmonds made the trip with the Flyers to Detroit, but sat out Philadelphia’s 3-1 win over the Red Wings on Friday night, as both teams tried to use players who hadn’t been in the lineup the previous day. Simmonds was in press row toward the end of the game, and although he declined further comment, he did send a few autograph-seeking fans home happy.

“I’m black, and I’m a real big hockey fan,” said 29-year-old Latoya Pugh, who was at the game with her kids. “It’s a sport you want to get more Americans into.”

Pugh and her kids approached Simmonds for an autograph during the third period. She was well aware of what happened the previous night.

“It’s hard when you’re black and you love the game,” Pugh said. “You want to support the people, support the players, the teams, but you have people like that, who are ignorant.”

The 23-year-old Simmonds was acquired from Los Angeles in a June trade that sent Mike Richards to the Kings. Simmonds is eager to move on from Thursday’s incident, and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman strongly condemned the person responsible.

“We have millions of great fans who show tremendous respect for our players and for the game,” Bettman said in a statement Friday. “The obviously stupid and ignorant action by one individual is in no way representative of our fans or the people of London, Ontario.”

Scott Hartnell, Simmonds‘ teammate with the Flyers, says he’s hopeful what happened to Simmonds was an isolated incident.

“You never want to see those kinds of actions,” Hartnell said. “He took it in stride. We hopefully won’t ever see that again. Simmer’s a character guy, and he just laughed it off.”

In European soccer, black players have had to contend with bananas being thrown at them, although such displays largely have been eradicated from the game in Western Europe. The most recent high-profile instances have come in Russia, involving the Brazilian star Roberto Carlos.

The rare NHL game at the 9,090-capacity John Labatt Centre drew a crowd of 7,427. The arena is operated by Global Spectrum, a subsidiary of the Flyers‘ parent company Comcast-Spectacor.

London Mayor Joe Fontana apologized to Simmonds and the Flyers on Friday on behalf of his city.

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