Banana toss nets charge against London, Ont., man

A London, Ont., man has been charged after throwing a banana onto the ice while black Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds was taking part in a shootout, police say.

A London, Ont., man has been charged after throwing a banana onto the ice while black Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds was taking part in a shootout, police said on Wednesday.

London police said Christopher Moorhouse, 26, has been charged with having engaged in prohibited activity under the Ontario Trespassing Act.

Moorhouse has been served with a summons and may be liable to a fine of up to $2,000 if convicted.

Moorhouse has expressed remorse, retained legal counsel and will appear in court, said London police Chief Brad Duncan.

A court date has not been set.

Duncan also said the offence did not meet the criteria of a hate crime or mischief.

"You have to demonstrate and be motivated by hatred," he told a news conference Wednesday. "Although the banana did hit the ice, it did not interfere with the play so it didn't meet the mischief threshold."

The incident occurred last Thursday during a pre-season game between the Flyers and Detroit Red Wings at London’s John Labatt Centre.

As Simmonds began skating toward Red Wings goalie Jordan Pearce in the shootout, a banana was thrown from the stands. Despite the distraction, Simmonds scored and the Flyers went on to win 4-3.

Police, who took action after a complaint by arena management, received information "from a variety of sources," including social media, according to Duncan.

"Clearly, the incident became the focus of the local community and across the national and international plane," Duncan said. "Mr. Moorhouse has expressed remorse for his actions and I ask that the public let the court process unfold.

"I've heard the term 'vigilantism.' We certainly don't want that."

Duncan said this was the first incident of its kind at the Labatt Centre.

The NHL condemned the action, calling it "stupid and ignorant."

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

Simmonds found himself in some trouble on Monday after he was accused of directing a homophobic slur at New York Rangers agitator Sean Avery when the teams played an exhibition game in Philadelphia.

But Simmonds wasn’t punished on Tuesday by the NHL, which issued a strong warning announcing its decision.

"All players, coaches and officials in the National Hockey League deserve the respect of their peers, and have the absolute right to function in a work environment that is free from racially or sexually based innuendo or derision," Colin Campbell, the league's senior executive vice-president of hockey operations, said Tuesday in a release.

"Since there are conflicting accounts of what transpired on the ice, we have been unable to substantiate with the necessary degree of certainty what was said and by whom…In light of this, we are unable at this time to take any disciplinary action with respect to last night's events."

With files from The Canadian Press