CHICAGO—Four fans were ejected from United Center on Saturday night for taunting Devante Smith-Pelly as the Capitals’ winger sat in the penalty box.
The fans, according to a team spokesman, yelled “basketball, basketball, basketball” at Smith-Pelly, who is black. Smith-Pelly was in the box for fighting in the third period of an eventual 7-1 loss to the Blackhawks.
The taunts were confirmed by an off-ice official, the spokesman said, and the fans were subsequently removed from the arena.
Smith-Pelly did not speak with reporters after the game but is expected to address the incident at the team’s next media availability. The team is scheduled to practice Sunday at KeyBank Center in Buffalo.
Caps Coach Barry Trotz did not hold back when asked about the fans' comments.
“There’s absolutely no place in the game of hockey or our country for racism,” Trotz said. “I think it’s disgusting, and there’s no place for it. …It just shows ignorance.”
“There’s absolutely no place in the game of hockey or in our country for racism.” — #Caps Coach Barry Trotz on an incident involving Devante Smith-Pelly on Saturday in Chicago. Four fans were ejected for taunting DSP when he was in penalty box. pic.twitter.com/kxn3uClSBY— Tarik El-Bashir⌨️🎙🏒 (@TarikNBCS) February 18, 2018
The Blackhawks responded on Twitter with an apology to Smith-Pelly, who is one of roughly 30 black players in the NHL.
Statement on the incident at tonight's game pic.twitter.com/7o02AaLQwz— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) February 18, 2018
February is Hockey is For Everyone month in the NHL.