There have been many players better than Wayne Simmonds to pull on the blue and white in Toronto but on the latest episode of 'In the Mentions', Omar explains why the 33-year-old may be the most important signing the Maple Leafs have made, highlighting Simmonds' work with the Hockey Diversity Alliance and his willingness to talk about important issues while playing for one of the league's biggest franchises.
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OMAR: The Hockey Diversity Alliance put out a very important video a couple of days ago with members, including Wayne Simmonds, talking about a lot of their experiences within the game. And I tweeted that "Wayne Simmonds is one of the most important signing the Leafs have ever made. Full stop." Now a lot of people chose to kind of focus on his on-ice performance and talk about how he used to be a great goal scorer on the Flyers, but his game is kind of teetered a little bit. And I understand that. But when I sent that tweet, I'm not-- I wasn't talking about his on-ice play. I was talking about what Wayne Simmonds means symbolically. What he means to, as part of the HDA. The fact that he's continuously using his position, using his voice, to talk about these things that are so important to the game-- a lot of these issues that we're still seeing, not only in the NHL but all over the world. We saw what happened in Europe, and even recently, in PEI. You have a player who is suspended indefinitely for criticizing the league and saying that a player that used an anti-Asian slur against a teammate wasn't punished enough.
So I think having a player like Wayne Simmonds-- and yes, this is not to disrespect or disregard any of the players that the Leafs have signed in the past. But what Wayne Simmonds brings and means is change. Symbolic change. Change that, I think, is needed within the game of hockey. And it really does kind speak to what the HDA has been trying to do. They have their new partnership with Budweiser. Tape-- get rid of the hate. Get rid of the negativity within the game. And I think players like Wayne Simmonds do that. And I think the more we talk about it, the more that we bring light to these issues, the greater chance that we have of seeing those issues go away.
And again, this isn't only about current fans, current players. This is about the future. This is about the future Wayne Simmonds, the future Quinton Byfields, the future Devante Smith-Pellys, the future Joel Wards, who want to be part of a game that's safe. Right now, I'm not sure if hockey is safe. But I think with these initiatives and with these things continuing, I think we can finally get to a point where one day, it is safe.
So, Wayne Simmonds being on the Leafs, yeah, it's been great. It's been great to see him fight. It's been great to see him score goals. But I think it's moments like these and it's quotes like this from Wayne Simmonds that really show how important he is to the Toronto Maple Leafs organization and to hockey as a whole.