NEW YORK - Wayne Simmonds of the Philadelphia Flyers escaped punishment by the NHL on Tuesday night because the league doesn't have conclusive evidence he directed a homophobic slur at the Rangers' Sean Avery.
Colin Campbell, the league's senior executive vice president of hockey operations and former disciplinarian, said because of "conflicting accounts of what transpired on the ice, we have been unable to substantiate with the necessary degree of certainty what was said and by whom."
Video replay appeared to catch Simmonds making an anti-gay slur against Avery during a preseason game in Philadelphia on Monday night. Avery confirmed that Simmonds made the remark, but Simmonds didn't reveal if he did. However, Campbell said in his statement that Simmonds "expressly denied" making it.
"He asked me if I called him a gay slur, and I said 'no.' '' Simmonds told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "I said a lot of other things, but that wasn't one of them.''
Campbell added that none of the on-ice officials heard any slurs by either player, thus making the NHL unable to take disciplinary action now. He said the league reserves the option to "revisit the matter" should new information be found that conclusively shows a slur was made.
Last week, Simmonds — who is black — was involved in another controversy when someone threw a banana on the ice from the stands as he was taking a shootout attempt during a game in London, Ontario.
"All players, coaches and officials in the National Hockey League deserve the respect of their peers, and have the absolute right to function in a work environment that is free from racially or sexually-based innuendo or derision," Campbell said in the statement. "This is the National Hockey League's policy and it will remain so going forward."
Earlier Tuesday, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation called for Simmonds to apologize for the slur and pressed the NHL to educate its fans about such remarks.
"Hate speech and anti-gay slurs have no place on the ice rink," GLAAD acting president Mike Thompson said in a statement. "The word that Simmonds used is the same word that is hurled at LGBT youth on the playground and in our schools, creating a climate of intolerance and hostility.
"He should not only apologize for this anti-gay outburst, but the Philadelphia Flyers and the NHL have a responsibility to take action and educate their fans about why this word is unacceptable."
GLAAD said it has talked to the Flyers and the NHL about what specific steps can be taken. The organization added that it has worked with sports leagues such as the NBA, Major League Baseball, and the WWE to address issues of homophobia in sports.
"It also is important to emphasize that the National Hockey League holds, and will continue to hold, our players to higher standards with respect to their conduct both on and off the ice," Campbell said. "While we recognize that the emotion involved in certain on-ice confrontations may lead to the use of highly charged and sometimes offensive language and commentary, certain lines cannot be crossed.
"We have for many years emphasized to our clubs and players that commentary directed at the race or ethnicity of other participants in the game (or even non-participants), or that is otherwise socially or morally inappropriate or potentially hurtful — including as it may relate to sexual orientation — is absolutely unacceptable and will not be tolerated," he added.