Flyers

Wayne Simmonds to national anthem critics: 'Stop focusing on kneeling,' focus on 'bigger issues'

Wayne Simmonds to national anthem critics: 'Stop focusing on kneeling,' focus on 'bigger issues'

VOORHEES, N.J. —​ Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds spent a good portion of his Wednesday night watching the nonstop CNN coverage regarding race relations in the United States and how the politicization has worked its way into the arena of sports centered around kneeling during the national anthem.

“All anyone wants to talk about right now is why they’re kneeling,” Simmonds said. “And if you’re disrespecting the Army or the national anthem or whatever it might be. People fail to see what the real issue is, or why Colin Kaepernick actually started this protest, and that he actually talked with an armed force member who was actually on CNN last night discussing all of these issues on a panel as to why he used the national anthem as a vehicle to get this out.”

Born and raised in Scarborough, Ontario, a suburb outside Toronto, Simmonds has spent the past decade living and playing professionally in the United States and has witnessed firsthand the problems that confront the United States of America. 

“The bigger issues are the social inequalities in life,” Simmonds continued. “The things that happen to the black youth — all the shootings and everything that’s gone on in this country for numerous amounts of years.

"Being Canadian, it’s happened to me in Canada, as well. I think it spans outside the U.S., but the issue right now is within the U.S. Obviously we’re trying to find answers, we’re trying to get a conversation sparked. We’re trying to bring everyone together so it’s more united, and not everyone loves you and everyone hates you. At this point, it’s either black and white, but it shouldn’t be black or white. There’s a lot of issues in this country that people aren’t taking into consideration.”

Simmonds has been a victim of racism and the injustices that can take place. During a Flyers' preseason game in London, Ontario in September 2011, a fan tossed a banana his way just prior to his shootout attempt

“It’s an American issue right now," he said. "We’re talking about America. We’re talking about the United States of America. We’re not talking about Canada. I’m a black male living in the United States and for the majority of my time, majority of the last 10 years I’ve lived here, I definitely understand what everyone is protesting about it and I definitely support the cause.”  

Currently, Simmonds is one of 27 black players on an NHL roster. He was asked about the possibility of kneeling or making a political statement after his good friend Joel Ward — who wears No. 42 with the San Jose Sharks to honor Jackie Robinson — said he had considered taking a knee during the national anthem.

Ward announced in a tweet Thursday, that he will not kneel during the anthem "to re-focus" the attention to the real issues, rather than the debate over the act of kneeling.

Simmonds became irritated when the idea of kneeling is brought into question.

“It’s not about the kneeling, but everyone’s going to continue to make it about the kneeling,” Simmonds said, “If you guys want to talk about kneeling, I’m not here to talk about the kneeling. I’m here to talk about the bigger issues. If you want to talk about the bigger issues, don’t ask me about kneeling.

“There’s social inequalities everywhere, but the United States is dealing with that right now. The stance that’s being taken is that it’s not right and something should be done about it. Instead of trying to find something to do about it, everyone’s talking about kneeling. I think that’s sad. I think that everyone should realize what the real issue is and stop focusing on kneeling, and actually talk about the hard questions instead of figuring out who’s going to kneel and who’s not going to kneel.” 

Thursday morning, Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol, a dual citizen of the United States and Canada, addressed whether he would allow one of his players to make a political statement during the playing of the national anthem.

“I think that’s a bigger conversation," Hakstol said. "I have the utmost respect for Simmer, and certainly for how strong he is within his convictions. I’m going to have that conversation and keep having those conversations with Simmer in private.”

Wednesday, the NHLPA released a statement supporting a player's right to protest, but it didn't specifically cite the national anthem:

“We believe each player may choose to speak out or engage in peaceful protest on matters that are important to him. A player is entitled to his own views on political and social issues, and the right of each player to express such views deserves respect. Should a player decide to make such a peaceful protest, he would of course have the full support of the NHLPA in regard to his right to do so.”

However, the NHL and commissioner Gary Bettman have taken a different position. Bettman has attempted to keep politics away from NHL rinks, and during a panel discussion with league commissioners at the Milken Institute panel this past May, Bettman had this to say about anthem protests:

“Respecting the national anthem, I think it’s great for our players to be involved in political and social causes. But I also think that’s not why people come to games to see games. So, I would encourage, and I do encourage our players to do it on their own time. When they’re showing up for work to participate in a game that people are focused on, care about, pay a lot of money to attend, then it should be all about the game. That block of time should be apolitical, and we can use our platforms to demonstrate diversity, inclusiveness, educating communities on good causes whether or not it’s health or the environment. But when the game is being played, it should be about the game because that’s what fans want.”

Monday's trade deadline no sweat for Flyers

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AP Images

Monday's trade deadline no sweat for Flyers

MONTREAL -- They’re watching it. They’re following it. But the Flyers don’t appear to be sweating it too much as NHL’s 3 p.m. Monday trade deadline fast approaches.

As they wrapped up an abbreviated practice Sunday afternoon at the Bell Centre in Montreal, the team had just learned that Canadiens center Tomas Plekanec had been dealt to the Maple Leafs, and the rumors are swirling regarding Montreal captain Max Pacioretty. 

“I know what’s going on,” said Jake Voracek. “It’s different. I haven’t been in this situation since my first year here (2011-12). Obviously it feels pretty good, but you never know what’s going to happen no matter what position you are in.”

It’s the first time the Flyers, sitting pretty in second in the Metropolitan Division as of Sunday morning and owners of a five-game win streak and points in their last 10 games, have been a potential buyer since Ron Hextall took over as general manager in 2014, and consequently, there’s no real threat of trading players to Cup-contending teams like we’ve seen in previous seasons. 

Still, Hextall elected to stay behind in Voorhees fielding phone calls and performing his due diligence as the Flyers prepare to face the Canadiens Monday night. He’s already given up conditional draft pick(s) to acquire goaltender Petr Mrazek from Detroit, and he may consider adding depth to a team with a solid nucleus.

And, keep in mind, they have reserves on the way when goalies Michal Nuevirth and Brian Elliott get healthy and Wayne Simmonds returns from his injury in the coming weeks.

“We have good chemistry inside that locker room,” said head coach Dave Hakstol. “From my standpoint our whole focus has been finding ways to get better from within — from within our dressing room and from within our own organization. If there’s a move or a decision that has to be made that Hex feels will make us better, I’m sure he’ll look at that in every way, but our job is to take care of our own business.”

Right now, that’s the perplexity of a playoff team that could benefit from adding experience. At the same time, there’s a risk tinkering with the chemistry that has developed over the past three months — a team that has endured and bonded following a ten-game winless streak to become one of the top six teams in the Eastern Conference with a 25-8-3 record and 53 points since Dec 4. 

“We’ve done a good job of playing as a team and sticking together, especially when you lose ten in a row,” said captain Claude Giroux. “I think you see the true colors of players and we didn’t have any negative things with this group. It’s definitely a positive. We like where this team is headed. Whatever Hexy decides at the deadline, that’s his decision, but we like who we have in this room.”

Hextall has stated previously that he believes major deadline deals don’t usually yield the desired playoff results, and he’s definitely not looking to mortgage the future by giving up prized prospects.

So don’t hold your breath that Hextall joins the likes of the Penguins, who dealt for Derrick Brassard, and Bruins, who acquired Rick Nash on Sunday morning, who are taking an “all-in” approach with the postseason nearing. 

As for the Flyers, they’re breathing a little easier as well. 

Dadonov's hat trick helps Panthers beat Penguins

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USA Today Images

Dadonov's hat trick helps Panthers beat Penguins

SUNRISE, Fla. — Evgenii Dadonov scored with 1:53 to play to complete a hat trick and give the Florida Panthers a 6-5 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night.

Dadonov beat goalie Matt Murray on a one-timer off Aleksander Barkov's pass for the winner. Dadonov has 18 goals this season.

Vincent Trocheck, Jamie McGinn and Derek MacKenzie also scored. Barkov had three assists, Keith Yandle added two, and Roberto Luongo made 24 saves.

Evgeni Malkin had two goals and an assist for the Penguins, and Carl Hagelin, Patric Hornqvist and Bryan Rust added goals. Tristan Jarry made 13 saves for Pittsburgh before he was replaced in the second period. Murray had 11 saves in relief.

Trocheck finished a 2-on-1 cross-ice pass from Malgin after a breakout pass from Yandle early in the first period. Trocheck tapped in the pass at 3:44 for his team-leading 24th goal (see full recap.)

Maple Leafs win ninth straight at home
TORONTO — Ron Hainsey broke a tie with 1:23 left to give the Toronto Maple Leafs their franchise record-tying ninth straight home victory, 4-3 over the Boston Bruins on Saturday night.

Hainsey's one-timed William Nylander's pass past goalie Tuuka Rask for his fourth goal of the season.

Toronto moved a point ahead of Boston for the second seed in the Atlantic Division.

Nazem Kadri scored twice, Mitch Marner had a goal and three assists, and Nylander had two assists. Frederik Andersen made 23 saves to improve to 10-1-0 against the Bruins.

Brad Marchand scored twice, and Jake DeBrusk also connected for Boston. Rask made 32 saves (see full recap.)

Point leads Lightning to shootout win over Canadiens
MONTREAL — Brayden Point scored in regulation and added the shootout winner and the Tampa Bay Lightning regained the top spot in the NHL with a 4-3 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night.

Nikita Kucherov and Ryan Callahan also scored in regulation to help the Lightning (42-17-3) win their third straight and move a point ahead of idle Vegas for the overall NHL lead.

Andrei Vasilevskiy made 29 saves for his league-leading 36th victory of the season.

Byron Froese, Joe Morrow and Max Pacioretty scored for Montreal. Antti Niemi, making his second straight start in relief of the injured Carey Price, stopped 36 shots. Price is sidelined indefinitely with a concussion (see full recap.)

Ovechkin scores twice in Capitals victory 
WASHINGTON — Alex Ovechkin added to his NHL lead with two goals on the night he tied the Washington record for most games played, and the Capitals beat the Buffalo Sabres 5-1 on Saturday.

Evgeny Kuznetsov scored 50 seconds into the game and had two assists. Andre Burakovsky and Lars Eller also had goals for Washington, which leapfrogged Pittsburgh and moved back into first place in the Metropolitan Division. The Capitals had lost two in a row and five of seven.

Ovechkin's 37th goal came on the power play with 9:47 remaining after Buffalo closed to 2-1 on Sam Reinhart's goal 14 seconds into the third period. Ovechkin redirected a shot past Sabres goaltender Robin Lehner with 1:24 left for his 38th goal.

The 32-year-old Ovechkin played in his 983rd NHL game, tying Calle Johansson for most in Capitals history. Ovechkin holds franchise records for goals (596) and points (1,105) (see full recap.)