In honor of Black History Month, we’re continuing to highlight some of the great Black players who have skated for the Buffalo Sabres in the team’s history. Previously covered: Mike Grier, Val James, Tony McKegney, Grant Fuhr & Jean-Luc Grand Pierre.
Wayne Simmonds was only briefly a member of the Buffalo Sabres organization, but he’s the first one 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 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 parts of eight seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers before bouncing around to Nashville, New Jersey, and eventually, Buffalo.
He waived his no-trade clause & was moved to Buffalo for a conditional fifth-round pick in the 2021 draft, then appeared in seven games with the team before the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered the NHL season.
Upon becoming a free agent, it came as no surprise that Simmonds elected to sign with his hometown team in the Leafs.
Simmonds was born in Scarborough, Ontario and has been outspoken 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 just the second player in NHL history to become All-Star MVP. In 2021, he spoke briefly about how his white teammates were able to get haircuts with a barber — who didn’t know how to cut Black hair.
He’s also had a special involvement with the community, and amid a racist incident that happened in Ukraine in September 2021, spoke up about racism in hockey & why people of color don’t want to be involved in the sport.
Here’s a video from Sportsnet last year where he reflects on his experiences & those of his family in his journey to the NHL: