Devante Smith - Pelly suffer racist slurs
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

This time of year brings out the best hockey as teams battle for playoff points. Sadly, this night brought out the evil in a select few in Chicago as the teams and now the league is surrounded by racist dialogue.

In the third period of the Washington Capitals-Chicago Blackhawks game, Washington’s Devante Smith-Pelly was given a fighting major penalty and went to the penalty box. This is where things got ugly as four Blackhawks fans started chanting a derogative comment to Smith-Pelly.

“basketball, basketball, basketball” was the word the four fans, seated by the glass next to the penalty box began yelling at the player. Smith-Pelly is African-American, which is why the fans were yelling these hurtful words towards him.

As was reported by Isabelle Kurshudyan of the Washington Post, “Smith-Pelly reacted, confronting the fans through the glass while holding his stick. An off-ice official sitting next to him in the penalty box notified building security, and the fans were kicked out of the arena.”

Smith-Pelly had no comment following the Caps 7-1 loss to the Blackhawks. Capitals head coach did address the incident postgame.

“There’s absolutely no place in the game of hockey or our country for racism,” Capitals Coach Barry Trotz said after the game. “I think it’s disgusting, and there’s no place for it. Athletes in our country don’t deserve that. It just shows ignorance.”


The head coach had not met with Smith-Pelly but said he was upset with the incident. How ironic that February is “Hockey is for everyone” month, a big initiative that has been celebrated by the teams throughout the NHL.

The Chicago Blackhawks released a statement following the game, “We were made aware of an incident at tonight’s game involving a small group of attendees who made harmful comments directed at Washington Capitals player Devante Smith-Pelly,” the Blackhawks said in a statement. “The fans were immediately removed and we apologize to Smith-Pelly and the Washington Capitals organization. We are committed to providing an inclusive environment for everyone who attends out games and these actions will never be tolerated.”

As an avid hockey fan, hockey is the best sport of the four major sports league. Yes, I say this because I am a die-hard hockey fan, a New York Rangers fan at that, who always appreciated what the players have gone through to bring the NHL to where it is today.

Hockey players have always been more involved with the fans, paid less money than players in other sports, have less popularity and television opportunities than the other major sports. It was and has been a sport where the players play for the love of the game and a little less than just for the money. The incident that occurred in Chicago is a major black eye to the sport. It is something that can not be tolerated by the league, players or the fans.

This is not the first racism related problem to occur in the NHL. In a 2011 preseason game in London, Ontario, a fan threw a banana at Philadelphia’s Wayne Simmonds during a shootout attempt. After Joel Ward scored a Game 7 overtime playoff winner for the Capitals in Boston in 2012, his social media was flooded with racially charged language and death threats.

Smith-Pelly is one of roughly 30 African American players in the NHL, and he and defenseman Madison Bowey are the only black players on the Washington Capitals.

A graduate of St. John's University class of '91. I have been a fan of the New York Rangers since the days of Peter Puck. Founder of Ranger Proud, the Facebook page that covers all news, notes, pre /post-game stats, and player quotes. I can be reached at