Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds was sickened by the dozens of racist and vulgar comments that Twitter users directed at his close friend, Washington's Joel Ward, after he scored an overtime goal to defeat host Boston, 2-1, in Game 7 of their first-round series Wednesday.
"It's the Internet. They can say whatever they want, and they don't have to show their faces," said Simmonds, who, like Ward, is one of 28 black players in the NHL. "It's disgusting. Things like that have happened to me before. It's not something you want to happen, but it's sad in this day and age that it continues to happen."
Simmonds, 23, and Ward, 31, both grew up Scarborough, Ontario, but they didn't meet until about five years ago. They have trained together in the last two offseasons.
"We're good buddies and it was nice to see him score. You could see the relief on his face," Simmonds said after the Flyers' practice Thursday in Voorhees. "The celebration was classic. He just smashed his stick into the ice, and it was pretty funny."
Simmonds, who denied tweets that he received racial slurs during the Flyers' recent games in Pittsburgh, said social media are getting out of hand.
"It is what it is. People can be as gutless as they want," he said. "They don't have to show up. They just throw a comment out on the Internet, and it's getting kind of ridiculous. Social media is not meant for that. It's for 'Say, hey, nice score. Congratulations.' You're not supposed to throw things out like that."
In the preseason, a fan threw a banana peel at Simmonds during a Sept. 22 exhibition in London, Ontario, against Detroit. The 26-year-old man was fined $200 for "provincial trespassing," but police said there wasn't enough evidence to charge him with a hate crime.
"I guess it is what it is, but it's sad, I have to say that, though," Simmonds said of the latest incidents.
Also in the preseason, the Rangers' Sean Avery accused Simmonds of directing a homophobic slur at him during an on-ice altercation. Simmonsds denied the charge.
Ward told USA Today the slurs were "shocking to see, but it didn't ruin my day. It doesn't faze me at all. We won, and we are moving on. People are going to say what they want to say."
Ted Leonsis, the Capitals owner, wrote on his blog that "there should be zero tolerance for this kind of hate-mongering. Their messages should now stay glued into the algorithms to place a forever warning and a mark upon these people and their actions."
Leonsis called Ward "a great teammate and a great citizen. He is now the star of stars in our city for his heroics" on Wednesday night.
Ward said he thought it was "just kids" who tweeted the comments.
The Bruins issued a statement, saying that they were "very disappointed by the racist comments" and that "these classless, ignorant views are in no way a reflection of anyone associated" with the organization.