If there was any doubt that racism is alive and well in the NHL, this Hockey is for Everyone Month hasn’t seemed to slow down the racist vitriol thrown at the few black players in the league.
Four Chicago Blackhawks fans were ejected from Saturday night’s game after shouting a racially charged chant at Devante Smith-Pelly of the Washington Capitals. Smith-Pelly, originally drafted by the Anaheim Ducks in the second round of the 2010 entry draft, is one of only 30 active black NHL players.
While he sat in the penalty box for fighting Connor Murphy, Blackhawks fans began chanting “Basketball, basketball, basketball” at Smith-Pelly. He addressed the choice of that word with the media yesterday morning.
“It’s pretty obvious what that means. It’s not really a secret.”
What they meant, of course, was that as a black athlete, Smith-Pelly should have stuck to a sport with few white people, instead of the massively white sport that is hockey. But that’s a bit harder to chant.
“Whether it’s that word or any other word, I got the idea. And I’m sure they got the idea, too. Just one word, and that’s really all it takes.”
After the 25-year-old forward told the off-ice official next to him in the penalty box what was being said, the official notified security at United Center and the fans were removed. But the damage was done.
The Blackhawks, Capitals, the NHL, and Smith-Pelly all addressed the incident yesterday. J.T. Brown and Wayne Simmonds also voiced their feelings on what happened to Smith-Pelly.
Statement from Blackhawks: pic.twitter.com/F135dp29Wn— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) February 18, 2018
Devante Smith-Pelly on the incident last night in Chicago. pic.twitter.com/Oz9qfFWMQH— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) February 18, 2018
Hockey is for everyone. If you think black athletes should only play basketball, than you clearly don’t know much about sports. There’s no room for racism in the rink or anywhere.— Jt brownov (@JTBrown23) February 18, 2018
Brown and Simmonds have also dealt with racism from fans. When Brown protested the national anthem while with the Tampa Bay Lightning this fall, he received death threats. In 2011, a fan threw a banana at Simmonds during a shootout attempt. He was also subject to “Monkey, monkey” chants while playing in the Czech Republic in 2012. Both of these players have tried to lead the conversation on racism in the NHL, yet neither player was named as their team’s Hockey is for Everyone ambassador earlier this month.
While it’s great that Gary Bettman called this out as being an act of racism, he failed to mention the Hockey is for Everyone initiative that the league is in the middle of and he described this as an isolated incident. If it’s a one-time rarity, why is it that only a week ago, former first round pick, current nobody, Colten Teubert used a racial slur against PK Subban to former WJC teammate Brendan Gallagher?
Pretending this incident is outside of the realm of “normal hockey” allows the league to move on without addressing its issues.
But hey, Hockey is for Everyone!
Read more about the incident below. First, here’s Sharks news and notes:
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The Sharks have the fourth-best power play percentage in the NHL. As of late though, they have struggled and need answers quickly.
Burns leaves Sharks win early in third period | NBCS Bay Area
It wasn't all good news in the Sharks' blowout win over the Stars on Sunday, as Brent Burns left the game with an undisclosed injury.
Sharks take shine off Stars ahead of crucial road trip | NBCS Bay Area
The Stars won six of seven in February entering Sunday, but the Sharks shined far brighter in a blowout win at SAP Center.
NHL: Chris Tierney's starting to cook for San Jose Sharks
Maintaining healthy habits has helped the Sharks' forward avoid any type of post all-star break dip in production
Sharks-Stars pregame: Tomas Hertl out; Antione Roussel in
The Sharks will be looking to close out their three-game homestand on a positive note Sunday as they host the Dallas Stars in the first of a handful of upcoming games against teams currently in a playoff position.
NHL: Mikkel Boedker's two goals help Sharks flatten Stars
Mikkel Boedker scored twice and goalie Martin Jones made 26 saves as the Sharks won for the fourth time in five games
And around the league:
Devante Smith-Pelly says racial taunting from NHL fans was 'disgusting' | Sport | The Guardian
The Washington player was taunted by four fans shouting ‘basketball, basketball, basketball’ on Saturday night in Chicago
Devante Smith-Pelly of Capitals Calls Racial Taunts in Chicago ‘Disgusting’ - The New York Times
Smith-Pelly, who is black, was in the penalty box during a game against the Blackhawks on Saturday when some fans at United Center started chanting “basketball” at him.
Racist taunts toward Smith-Pelly by ‘fans’ ignores the history of their favorite team | TheColorOfHockey
The idea that you could be shocked and appalled in this day and age at the sight of a black guy being on the ice or in the penalty box at a hockey game means you either don’t know your own team or that Smith-Pelly’s skin simply got under yours.
NHL condemns fans chanting racial taunt against black player
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman says the league condemns the behavior of four male fans chanting a racial taunt against a black player, and backs the Chicago Blackhawks for ejecting the offenders.
Simmonds: Fans who taunted Smith-Pelly should be banned from every NHL rink | theScore.com
On Sunday, the Philadelphia Flyers forward lamented the incident and suggested further punishment for the culprits in a reply to the Capitals' tweet sharing Smith-Pelly's response.
NHL suspends Devils’ Wood 2 games for hit on Namestnikov - The Washington Post
New Jersey forward Miles Wood has been suspended for two games by the NHL for a blindside hit on Tampa Bay forward Vladislav Namestnikov.
Teams asking Canucks about Chris Tanev ahead of NHL Trade Deadline - Sportsnet.ca
While the bigger defensive fish like Erik Karlsson and Mike Green are being dangled ahead of the NHL's 2018 trade deadline, the Vancouver Canucks have seen interest continue to rise on one of their own as Feb. 26 draws near.
NHL Trade Rumors: Examining Latest Reports as 2018 Deadline Approaches | Bleacher Report
The 2018 NHL trade deadline, which is scheduled for Feb. 26 at 3 p.m. ET, should create a nice market for sellers, with a limited number of teams having already faded from playoff contention...
What would Team USA look like if the NHL was participating in the Olympics? - Stanley Cup of Chowder
With the Americans going 1-2 in the preliminary round, one can’t help but wonder "what if?"