When Washington Capitals right-winger Devante Smith-Pelly headed to the penalty box at United Center he was greeted by an unwelcoming surprise from a couple of Chicago Blackhawks fans. Typically a player in the sin bin would expect the occasional boo or fun-playful heckle but this particular group crossed the line in the most despicable way imaginable. Smith-Pelly was subjected to racial taunts including the chants of “basketball, basketball, basketball.” The Blackhawks and the NHL sent a message by banning the fans for life but unfortunately this is a problem for many athletes that still hasn’t been resolved today. To make matters worse, it’s not just the pros who have to deal with it.
13-year old Divyne Apollon II of the Metro Maple Leafs, a Under-14 youth hockey team in Maryland was subjected to chants of “Get off the ice”, “Go play basketball”, monkey noises and the occasional n-word.
One of Apollon II’s teammate’s mom, Tammi Lynch, made stickers for the parents and patches for the players depicting a “no racism” sign with a hockey stick instead of the normal line through the circle.
On Wednesday morning, the Metro Maple Leafs got a personal video message from John Carlson and Devante Smith-Pelly. It was an invitation to Monday’s Capitals game against the St. Louis Blues and a personal meet-and-greet postgame.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) January 9, 2019
“Hey Metro Maple Leafs,” Smith-Pelly said. “We heard about the unfortunate incidents that have been taking place with Divyne but we were so happy to see your team stand up and support each other.”
Carlson added, “To show our support and to reward you all for showing the true meaning of a hockey family, we would like to invite your entire team to the game on January 14.”
In an article on WashingtonCaps.com written by Taryn Bray, Carlson said, “It’s terrible first off, I think you feel for Divyne and what he has to go through as a hockey player I think we all stand up for each other. I just think it’s a good thing to do to show him we’re all with him.”
Smith-Pelly, who’s dealt with the hate his whole life playing the sport of hockey, this story hit home. He said in the article: “For me to meet him (Divyne) and look him in the face as someone who’s gone through it and can talk to him and share my experience is important to me. It’s a pretty gross thing to be happening.”
The advice DSP would give him is to “keep playing and keep standing up for yourself.”
Smith-Pelly and Carlson are both fan favorites among the Caps community and the impact each has made off the ice on the fans is truly touching. This is a prime example of a great gesture. Hockey is for everyone.
And hockey > hate.