Ugly words take center stage on ice

Racism, homophobic slurs, death threats. Welcome to NHL preseason hockey.

All three ugly elements have come into play recently during NHL exhibition games, including Monday’s showdown between the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers.

Four days after a fan in London, Ontario, hurled a banana on the ice at Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds — one of the NHL’s few black players — in a racist display, Simmonds hurled an equally offensive homophobic slur at Rangers forward Sean Avery.

A video replay showed Simmonds calling Avery a “(expletive-expletive)” during the first period of Philadelphia’s 5-3 victory, and Avery confirmed the epithet after the game.

“To be here now having to answer the questions about what he did is disappointing for me. I’m disappointed for him,” said Avery, who appeared in a public service announcement in May supporting gay rights and marriage equality.

Simmonds, who didn’t deny using the slur, said he believed Avery sucker-punched him in a scrum early in the game and that the two continued to verbally spar after that.

“Honestly, we were going back and forth for a while there,” Simmonds said. “I can’t recall every single word I said.”

While Avery claimed he said nothing to prompt such a response from Simmonds, he was caught on a microphone during the game repeatedly threatening to “(expletive) kill” the Flyers’ Claude Giroux.

These gentle, sensitive guys need to start taking these exhibition games more seriously.

■ LIGHTEN UP, FRANCIS — Yankees catcher Russell Martin claimed home plate umpire Paul Schrieber ejected him from Monday’s loss to Tampa Bay because he made a joke following consecutive walks by New York starter Phil Hughes.

Martin told reporters he asked the ump, “Did you stretch before the game tonight?” then added, “I feel like you’re kind of tight tonight.” While Martin later conceded he was being critical of the strike zone, he felt the umpire overreacted.

“What, we can’t talk anymore?” Martin said. “It’s a game, man, we’re supposed to be having fun. I was just trying to get him to laugh. I didn’t say he sucked. I didn’t say he was the worst umpire in the league. I didn’t cuss at him. I didn’t say any of that stuff.”

Schrieber declined to comment after the game. He must’ve been busy stretching.

■ FINANCIAL WIZARD OF OZZIE — Before former 51s player Ozzie Guillen received his requested release from his contract with the Chicago White Sox, the outspoken manager made it clear to team owner Jerry Reinsdorf that money was more important to him than a contract extension.

“(Expletive) more years, I want more money,” said Guillen, who was due to earn nearly $2 million next year. “Life is about money. People are happy when they make a lot of money. It won’t be comfortable for anyone for me to come back here (with the current deal). Things will have to change. My wife will have to shop less, I will have to drink less, (my 25-year-old son) Oney will have to get a job.”

With Guillen expected to manage the frugal Florida Marlins, consider him on the wagon — unless Oney gets a job as a bartender.


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