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Tossing a banana at NHL's Wayne Simmonds nets London, Ont., man a $200 fine

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LONDON, Ont. - The man who touched off a national furor when he threw a banana at a black NHL player during an exhibition game has been fined $200.

Christopher Moorhouse, 26, was not on hand in the London, Ont. courtroom where his lawyer entered a guilty plea on his behalf on Monday.

Moorhouse was charged with engaging in a prohibited activity, an offence under the provincial Trespass to Property Act rather than the Criminal Code.

Under the terms of the sentence, Moorhouse has 90 days to pay the fine.

Defence lawyer Faisal Joseph could not immediately be reached for comment, but had previously called for leniency in a case he contended had been blown far out of proportion.

Joseph said Moorhouse was oblivious to the racial connotations of throwing a banana when he lobbed the fruit at Philadelphia Flyers' forward Wayne Simmonds on Sept. 22.

Moorhouse was caught up in the drama of a tense overtime shootout between the Flyers and his favourite team, the Detroit Red Wings, he said. Simmonds had just forced the game into overtime with a third-period goal and was approaching Detroit goalie Jordan Pearce to try and clinch the match at London's John Labatt Centre. Detroit went on to win the pre-season game 4-3.

Moorhouse's sole intention was to prevent Simmonds from scoring against his favourite hockey team, Joseph said.

"He was horrified when he saw the implications a day later as to how it had come out, and he said to me, 'if I had an apple or an orange, I would have thrown that out onto the ice,'" Joseph previously told the Canadian Press. "I did not realize the significance.'"

The incident touched off widespread controversy, drawing a sharp condemnation from the National Hockey League and prompting the city of London to issue an apology on behalf of its citizens.

While Simmonds himself shrugged off the affair, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman roundly criticized the move the morning after the game.

"The obviously stupid and ignorant action by one individual is in no way representative of our fans or the people of London, Ontario," he said.

Despite the high profile of the incident, London police chief Brad Duncan said the offence was not serious enough to be considered a hate crime or even merit a charge of mischief.

"You have to demonstrate and be motivated by hatred,'' he told a news conference shortly after the game. "Although the banana did hit the ice, it did not interfere with the play so it didn't meet the mischief threshold.''

Moorhouse's sentence falls well short of the maximum $2,000 fine he could have faced if he had been convicted of the charge.

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