ATLANTIC CITY - Wayne Simmonds had been back on North American soil for less than 10 days, but he knew where he needed to be on Saturday night.

That was Boardwalk Hall, where the proceeds from Operation Hat Trick went to benefit victims of Hurricane Sandy.

For Simmonds, it was a chance to not only support a worthwhile cause, but an opportunity for some sense of normalcy in an otherwise bizarre 6 months since he last lined up with Flyers teammates. Sure, Simmonds played hockey in two European countries - Germany and the Czech Republic - but it just wasn't the same.

"It's obviously a different world," Simmonds said. "Different language, different lifestyle. There are a lot of things to get used to. But I'd say I had a good time there. I tried to enjoy myself, and I think it was a great experience."

Simmonds was the only player at Boardwalk Hall who has played professionally in Europe this season. His teammate, Claude Giroux, also returned from Germany to visit a chiropractic neurologist in Georgia after sustaining a check to the head. The Flyers still have eight players skating abroad.

Simmonds bolted from his Czech team in Liberec during a break in their Extraliga schedule. He netted six points in six games for the White Tigers, but overall it was an awkward experience. Simmonds, a black Canadian, was racially taunted for the second time in his pro career, with fans chanting "opice," which is the Czech word for "monkey." Eight fans were arrested for the racial remarks and the offending team wrote an letter of apology to him.

The Liberec coach also resigned after a particularly brutal, 8-1 drubbing.

Simmonds said his reason for returning had nothing to do with the racial epithets. He had to come back for family reasons.

"It wasn't me itching to come back. I had to come home. I had stuff I had to deal with," Simmonds said, adding that everything at home is now "fine."

Simmonds left behind a close friend, St. Louis Blues forward Chris Stewart, who returned to the German second-division team they began their journey with in September.

"I think he'll be fine without me," Simmonds said, smiling. "He's got his fiancee over there now with him."

Simmonds won't rule out a return to Europe, depending on how long the lockout lasts. He's mostly excited to spend time with his mother, Wanda Mercury-Simmonds, in suburban Toronto.

"I will be in and out of Philly, but I'm going to post up in Toronto and look to join in some skates with guys up there," Simmonds said. "We're going to continue to work for a resolution, I think that's what we've been doing the whole time. I think every player has the same feeling; we can't wait to be playing again."

Union spin

NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr did not miss an opportunity Saturday to address 30 of his constituents in Atlantic City - and he surely did not miss a chance to speak to the media without a rebuttal from the NHL.

Naturally, the hot topic of decertification - or breaking up the union in an effort to battle the lockout's legality through the court system - was a big part of Fehr's message. The idea of decertifying the union has been repeatedly leaked to the media in the last week.

When asked if it was too soon for the media to be talking about decertification, Fehr said: "I don't want to tell you what's too soon. You can look at what's happened in the other sports and make your own judgment about that."

The NFL decertified its union during the 2011 lockout and used that tactic to help push through a new collective bargaining agreement, and the NBA players threatened a similar course of action before settling their labor impasse later that year.

The NHL lockout reached its 72nd day on Monday. No negotiating sessions are currently planned for this week.

Slap shots

Even though they still are being paid regular salaries by the Flyers to rehab injuries sustained before the lockout, defensemen Andrej Meszaros (Achilles') and Andreas Lilja (hip) joined their teammates in Atlantic City . . . With Friday's cancellation of the schedule through Dec. 14, 29 games from the Flyers' schedule (35 percent) have been wiped out.