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Former Flyer Wayne Simmonds narrates an emotional letter to his younger self | On the Fly

Simmonds narrates the two-minute video, produced by SportsNet in Canada, with unabashed passion.

Wayne Simmonds (left) celebrating one of the 204 goals he scored as a Flyer with teammates Shayne Gostisbehere and Claude Giroux. He plays now for his hometown Maple Leafs.
Wayne Simmonds (left) celebrating one of the 204 goals he scored as a Flyer with teammates Shayne Gostisbehere and Claude Giroux. He plays now for his hometown Maple Leafs.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

It turns out the Flyers will not have to wait until Sunday to play in front of fans. They’ll do it tonight.

Pittsburgh will allow up to 2,800 customers into PPG Paints Arena to cheer on their Penguins and jeer against the Flyers, who open up a unique three-game set with their in-state rivals. Travis Konecny should be back in the lineup soon, chirping up Sidney Crosby and the boys, and giving those 2,800 fans a willing villain.

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The Wayne Train’s touching letter to his younger self

One of the most poignant reflections during Black History Month was Wayne Simmonds’ open letter to his younger self. The video was produced by SportsNet in Canada and directed by Benji Agbeke, and Simmonds narrates the two-minute missive himself with unabashed passion.

It starts with his memories of buying equipment and pleading with his parents to sign him up for hockey teams. You can almost see the outdoor rink his dad took him to in Toronto and taste the hot chocolate he used to love.

Simmonds played eight seasons for the Flyers, scored more than 200 goals, and was a popular shoulder to lean on in the locker room, especially for the younger players such as Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier.

I’ll never forget the grace Simmonds displayed in one of his first appearances as a Flyer. It was 10 years ago when a fan at a preseason game in London, Ontario, tossed a banana at him as he was preparing to take the puck during a shootout. The racial undertone of the act was obvious, but Simmonds — who was 23 at the time, and recently acquired from L.A. in the Mike Richards deal — shrugged it off.

He also scored the goal.

“I’ve never had a banana thrown at me before. That’s a first for me,” he said that night. “I guess it’s something I obviously have to deal with — being a black player playing a predominantly white sport. I’ve grown a lot playing in this league and throughout my whole life. I’m not going to dwell on that. It’s over with now.”

Simmonds, who was off to a hot start in his first season with his hometown Maple Leafs, is on the injured list with a broken wrist. He had five goals in 12 games before his injury on Feb. 6.

He didn’t mention that incident in his letter, but he did recall fighting through mistreatment simply because of the color of his skin.

“Do you remember the one rule Dad had?” he asked. “You had to pick yourself up off of the ice whenever you fell.”

Simmonds’ voice quickened as he talked of the opportunity he has today, and how his father’s advice maybe needs to be reconsidered.

“Remember, Wayne, when you grow up, like Willie O’Ree inspired you ... you too can inspire those around you,” he said. “You can be one of many voices for people. You can ask for others to help pick you up, to start a Diversity Alliance to let other people know, too, that they’re not alone. That we’re in this together.”

Things to know

  1. Another corner appears ready to be turned in our interminable quest to return to normalcy as city officials allow the Flyers and Sixers to start inviting fans back to the Wells Fargo Center.

  2. “For a few days there. I had it pretty bad.” Flyers players talk about the physical and mental challenges of battling COVID-19.

  3. Feasting on the Sabres was one thing. Now the Flyers head to Pittsburgh for a compelling three-game series.

  4. Reaching 700 wins is nice, but Alain Vigneault wants that one victory that has eluded him all these years.

  5. The dark side of gregarious former Flyer Chris Therien, how he has turned his life around, and his new mission.

This & that

  1. Defenseman Mark Friedman, claimed last week by the Penguins after the Flyers tried to slip him through waivers, has yet to appear in a game for Pittsburgh. He was drafted by the Flyers in 2014 when Ron Hextall, the current Penguins general manager, held that position here.

  2. Vigneault’s reaching the 700-win club Sunday had us pondering some trivia, so we went to The most wins by a coach who has never won a Stanley Cup: 745, by Paul Maurice.

  3. The coach with the fewest career victories to win a Stanley Cup is George O’Donoghue, who was just 15-13-1 over parts of two seasons, but led the 1922-23 Toronto St. Pats to the championship. O’Donoghue died two years later of pneumonia on Dec. 5, 1925, three days shy of his 40th birthday. His brief obituary in the Ottawa Citizen on Dec. 7 called him a “well known Toronto sports writer and sportsman, and one-time business manager of St. Patrick’s professional hockey club” who was on the staff of a racing publication. The St. Pats changed their name to the Maple Leafs in 1927.

  4. The Penguins’ Evgeni Malkin has four goals in 20 games and is -8. Two years ago, he was -25.

Coming schedule

Tuesday: Flyers at Pittsburgh, 7 p.m. (NBCSP locally, NBCSN nationally)

Thursday: Flyers at Pittsburgh, 7 p.m. (NBCSP)

Saturday: Flyers at Pittsburgh, 1 p.m. (NBCSP)

Sunday: Washington at Flyers, 7 p.m. (NBCSP)

Tuesday, March 8: Buffalo at Flyers, 7 p.m. (NBCSP)

From the mailbag

Bundy/Sam, thank you for a profound article. I have shared it with my daughter who completed a 2-month rehab program and is so far doing well with her sobriety. It is a lifetime work in progress and I am so proud of her!

— user Tarleton commenting on Sam Carchidi’s story on Chris Therien


Question: (With the imminent return of Travis Konecny) Who sits? Who plays fourth line? (Scott) Laughton better not be going back there. He deserves to play in the top nine now and I believe it isn’t in their best interest to move him. Nolan Patrick?

— @SullyTheGoalie via Twitter

Answer: TK might go to Patrick’s RW spot, with Patrick sliding down to 4C and Connor Bunnaman coming out. We shall see. At this point, Laughton deserves to be playing on a higher line than Patrick, who is starting to come around after a slow start. — Sam Carchidi

Send questions or observations via Twitter to beat writers Ed Barkowitz (@EdBarkowitz) or Sam Carchidi (@BroadStBull).