Police have charged a 26-year-old man over an apparent racial gesture at an NHL pre-season game in which a banana was tossed onto the ice at a black player.

Christopher Moorhouse of London, Ont. has been accused of engaging in a prohibited activity under the province's Trespass to Property Act.

If convicted, he could be charged up to $2,000.

The incident happened last Thursday during a pre-season match up between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Detroit Red Wings.

Controversy erupted when a banana was pitched out of the stands and onto the ice just as Philadelphia's Wayne Simmonds was skating towards Detroit goalie Jordan Pearce in a shootout at the John Labatt Centre in London.

Chief Brad Duncan with London police announced the charges Wednesday, urging the public not to punish Moorhouse in the court of public opinion.

"I ask that members of the public allow the court process to unfold and that no one take matters into their own hands," he said.

The incident was evocative of similar incidents in the soccer world in which black players have been harassed with monkey chants and had banana peels thrown at them. For some it was also a grim reminder that racism is still pervasive in the sports world.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman denounced the gesture last week, referring to the action as "obviously ignorant and stupid."

London Mayor Joe Fontana also weighed in on the incident. He issued an apology and called the action "a stupid and mindless act by a single individual."

Hundreds of people condemned the act on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Norton Sports, a California-based sports management group, even offered a $500 reward for the thrower's identity.

Duncan said Moorhouse will have an opportunity to tell his side of the story and has expressed regret over the incident.

"Not withstanding the strong public sentiment that this incident has caused, I can tell you that Mr. Moorhouse has expressed remorse for his actions," he told reporters.

Moorhouse has retained a lawyer, added Duncan. There is no court date scheduled yet.