NHL calls banana-throwing incident "stupid and ignorant"

(Reuters) - The National Hockey League (NHL) condemned the person who threw a banana in the direction of a black player during a pre-season game, calling the individual's actions "stupid and ignorant."

The banana was tossed from the stands while Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds was skating toward the Detroit Red Wings net in a shootout attempt during Thursday's game in London, Ontario.

"We have millions of great fans who show tremendous respect for our players and for the game," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement on Friday.

"The obviously stupid and ignorant action by one individual is in no way representative of our fans or the people of London, Ontario."

Simmonds, who tied the game when he scored in the final minute of regulation, tallied on his shootout attempt despite the disruption. Detroit went on to win 4-3.

The individual who threw the banana has not been identified but London Mayor Joe Fontana issued an apology to Simmonds on behalf of his city, about 185 km (115 miles) west of Toronto.

"As Mayor, and on behalf of Londoners, I am sending an apology to Wayne Simmonds and the Philadelphia Flyers organization regarding the incident at last night's exhibition game," said Fontana.

"It was a stupid and mindless act by a single individual, however it reflects badly on our entire community. London is a diverse and welcoming city and we like it that way."

While racial attacks on minority players are common place in some sports, particularly soccer, they are rare occurrences in the NHL.

A predominantly white sport, there are currently only a handful of black players in the NHL, most admitting they have had faced racial taunts while in the minor and junior leagues.

"I've never had a banana thrown at me before," Simmonds told the London Free Press. "I guess it's something I obviously have to deal with -- being a black player playing in 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."

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Frank Pingue)