In honor of Black History Month, we continue to highlight some of the great black players who skated for the bison sabers in the history of the team. Previously covered: Mike Grier, Val James, Tony McKeney, Grant Fuhr & Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre.
Wayne Simmonds was only briefly a member of the Buffalo Sabers organization, but he’s the first I’m highlighting in this series who is still actively playing in the NHL. Simmonds, now 33, is in his second season with the Toronto Maple Leafs. As of this writing, he has 13 points in 48 games.
Simmonds was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in 2007 with the 61st overall pick and spent three seasons with the Kings. He then played eight seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers before bouncing back to Nashville, New Jersey, and eventually Buffalo.
He waived his no-trade clause and was traded to Buffalo for a conditional fifth-round pick in the 2021 draft, then played seven games with the team before the COVID-19 pandemic ended his the NHL season.
Upon becoming a free agent, it’s no surprise that Simmonds opted to sign with his hometown team at the Leafs.
Simmonds was born in Scarborough, Ont., and has spoken openly in recent years about his experience as a black man playing professional hockey. He was an integral part of the formation of the Hockey Diversity Alliance. In 2016, he became the second player in NHL history to become the All-Star Most Valuable Player. In 2021, he briefly explained how his white teammates were able to get their hair cut with a barber – who didn’t know how to cut black hair.
He also had a particular involvement in the community and, in the midst of a racist incident in Ukraine in September 2021, spoke about racism in hockey and why people of color do not want to be involved in the sport. .
Here’s a video from Sportsnet last year where he reflects on his experiences and those of his family on his journey to the NHL: