Bruins

Capitals forward calls fans' racial taunts 'disgusting'

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AP Photo

Capitals forward calls fans' racial taunts 'disgusting'

BUFFALO, N.Y.  -- This wasn't the first time Devante Smith-Pelly has had racial taunts directed at him during a hockey game.

And the Washington Capitals forward knew immediately what the intent of the message was when a few fans began chanting "basketball, basketball, basketball," while Smith-Pelly sat in the penalty box during a 7-1 loss at Chicago on Saturday night. Smith-Pelly, a black player in a sport dominated by white athletes, heard a similar taunt years before while playing in a tournament in British Columbia.

"It's pretty obvious what that means. It's not really a secret," Smith-Pelly said after the Capitals practiced in Buffalo on Sunday. "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."

What stunned the 25-year-old is how incidents such as these keep happening.

"It's disgusting," Smith-Pelly said. "You'd think there would be some sort of change or progression, but we're still working toward it, I guess, and we're going to keep working toward it."

The Blackhawks and United Center officials reacted swiftly by ejecting four fans shortly after an off-ice official sitting next to Smith-Pelly - serving a fighting major for a scrap with Chicago's Connor Murphy - notified building security.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman released a statement Sunday, saying the league condemns the fans' behavior as being "unacceptable and reprehensible."

"While this was isolated in nature, no player, coach, official or fan should ever have to endure such abuse at one of our games," Bettman said.

The Capitals released a statement saying they are "extremely disappointed by the intolerant behavior" by a select group of fans in Chicago.

In thanking the Blackhawks and arena security, the Capitals said: "It is crucial to confront such appalling conduct."

The Blackhawks issued a statement apologizing to Smith-Pelly and the Capitals following the game, and said they "are committed to providing an inclusive environment."

Video shows Smith-Pelly seated in the penalty box while looking and pointing to his left. He then gets up with his stick and gets into a verbal exchange with a male fan on other side of the glass.

Smith-Pelly said he stepped forward publicly to call out the fans for what they said because he didn't want to "brush it under the rug."

"I guess I'm trying to get the conversation started and show whoever these people were their true colors," he said.

Joining the Capitals on their road trip, which concludes at Buffalo on Monday, are players' fathers, allowing Smith-Pelly an opportunity to discuss what happened with his dad.

"We've had this conversation before," said Smith-Pelly, who is from Toronto. "So he said, `It's just a few idiots being ignorant.'"

Smith-Pelly has seven goals and nine assists in 54 games is in his first season with the Capitals. He has 40 goals and 53 assists in 320 regular-season games with in seven seasons with Anaheim, Montreal, New Jersey and the Capitals.

Capitals rookie defenseman Madison Bowey said what happened in Chicago made him "sick to my stomach."

Assistant captain Brooks Orpik said: "I wish I could say it's surprising but it's probably not all that surprising."

"I think no matter what you do, you're going to find pockets of ignorance anywhere you go," Orpik said. "Devo is as well liked as anyone in this room. I think it's important for him to know that, and to know that everyone respects him a ton in this room."

Capitals coach Barry Trotz reiterated his post-game comments by saying there's no place for racism in hockey or the country.

"For the 22,000 people in Chicago at the game last night, there were a lot, a lot, a lot of good people," Trotz said. "And a few individuals keep bringing the ugly part of society out, and that was unfortunate."

The fans' taunts occurred during the NHL's monthlong "Hockey is for Everyone " campaign to promote the game as being inclusive for all players regardless of race, color, religion, national origin or gender. February is also Black History Month in the United States.

The NHL has had to previously deal with racial insults.

During the 2014 playoffs, the Boston Bruins denounced fans who posted racial comments on social media targeting then-Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban, who is black, after he scored in double overtime.

In 2011, a fan was fined $200 after pleading guilty to engaging in a prohibited activity for throwing a banana on the ice at Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds, who is black, during an exhibition game at London, Ontario.

Talking Points from Bruins' shootout loss to Blues

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USA TODAY Sports Images

Talking Points from Bruins' shootout loss to Blues

Here are my Talking points after the Bruins concluded an otherwise excellent five-game road trip Saturday afternoon . . .

GOLD STAR: Credit Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington for continuing to ride a hot streak for St. Louis where he’s been playing lockdown between the pipes. Binnington stopped 31 of the 32 shots that he faced during the 65 minutes of regulation and overtime, and then he outdueled Tuukka Rask in the shootout while stopping Brad Marchand, Jake DeBrusk and Patrice Bergeron among others in securing the two points for the Blues. Binnington‘s best probably came in the second period when he shut down a wide open David Backes chances from the slot with a lightning quick glove save. Consistency has been a weak spot for the St. Louis goalies over the years, but they’re getting good play from Binnington right now.

BLACK EYE: The Bruins are showing some faith in Peter Cehlarik by keeping him in the lineup after trading for Charlie Coyle, but he had a tough afternoon in St. Louis. It was his turnover that led to the first period goal for St. Louis as he just blindly threw a puck at the legs of a teammate, which turned into Alex Steen steaming into the Bruins zone and snapping one short-side against Rask. Cehlarik didn’t really do much offensively on the afternoon, either, and took a couple of big, heavy hits from the Blues later on in the game without really responding with any physical play of his own.  

TURNING POINT: The Bruins looked tired, made some really decisions with the puck and generally looked like a hockey club at the end of a long five game road trip after the opening 20 minutes. They were a Vladimir Tarasenko crossbar away from being down 2-0 at the end of the first period and it looked like it was going to be a long afternoon for the Black and Gold. But they bounced back in the second period and played with a lot more energy while getting back into the game and making it competitive when all looked lost early. In the end it earned them a point in their 13th straight game in the shout-out loss.  

HONORABLE MENTION: Chris Wagner was the best player on the ice for the Bruins. He had the only scoring chance for the B’s in the first period when Sean Kuraly fed him a pass from behind the net that Jordan Binnington stopped, and then Wagner scored the B’s lone goal of the game in the second period. It was Kevan Miller with a big rush and then diagonal cross-ice pass to Wagner for the wide open chance. Wagner registered a goal, a plus-1 rating, two shots on net, three shot attempts, a hit and a couple of blocked shots in the first two periods. He finished with three goals on the five-game road trip for the Bruins, and has really come on in the second half of the season for the Black and Gold. 

BY THE NUMBERS: 3-for-12 — a rare Patrice Bergeron off-night in the face-off circle as he really struggled against the St. Louis Blues center. 

QUOTE TO NOTE: “We make everyone feel welcome and a part of the family.” —Zdeno Chara in bringing new guys like Charlie Coyle into the B’s fold.

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Highlights from Bruins' 2-1 shootout loss to Blues

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Highlights from Bruins' 2-1 shootout loss to Blues

FINAL SCORE: Blues 2, Bruins 1 (SO)

IN BRIEF: Tuukka Rask stood on his head in net with some resilient play late -- including three incredible saves in the final minute of overtime -- and took it to six rounds of shootout before Sammy Blais beat him with a no-angle bar-down to snap Boston's seven-game win streak. The Bruins come home from their five-game road trip having won nine of a possible 10 points, and now have six straight at home.

BOX SCORE 

BRUINS RECORD: 36-17-9 (81 points), 2nd in Atlantic Division

FROM JOE HAGGERTY:

That was a pretty decent first couple of periods for Charlie Coyle in his first game as a member of the Bruins. Coyle was on the ice for the goal against after Peter Cehlarik turned a puck over in the neutral zone, but he also had a shift where he was out with Brad Marchand where the Blues couldn’t get the puck off his stick. He threw a big hit at the end of the shift, and kicked off a couple of shifts where the Bruins started cycling the puck and generating some momentum. They just couldn’t keep it going, though, and it looks like they’ll have difficulty sustaining energy in this one. Coyle didn’t have any shots on net, but was one of the few B’s players having a good day on the draw with 6-of-8 faceoff wins.  

Chris Wagner was the best player on the ice for the Bruins in this game today. He had the only scoring chance for the B’s in the first period, when Sean Kuraly fed him a pass from behind the net that Jordan Binnington stopped, and then Wagner scored the B’s first goal in the second period. It was Kevan Miller with a big rush and then diagonal cross-ice pass to Wagner for the wide open chance. Wagner had a goal, a plus-1 rating, two shots on net, three shot attempts, a hit and a couple of blocked shots in 7:44 through the first two periods. He also now has three goals on the five game road trip for the Bruins, and has really come on in the second half of the season for the Black and Gold.

There was some really nice defense from Charlie McAvoy in the second period. He wrestled Ivan Barbashev out of the crease at one point without allowing him to get a good shot on net, and then he made a diving play to break up an Alex Steen pass to Barbashev wide open in front on a Bruins penalty kill later on. McAvoy obviously gets plenty of credit for his offense and puck-moving, but he was showing some quality defense today as well. That’s what he needs to do to become a true No. 1 defenseman, and he really looks like he’s beginning to make that transition for the Black and Gold. He’s not filling up much on the stat sheet, but he’s been a difference-maker with the way that he’s playing away from the puck.  

⬇️ HIGHLIGHTS ⬇️

TUUUUUUUUUUUUUKKKKK!

WAGNER TIES IT AT 1

👀 THIS CHARLIE COYLE SHOOTOUT GOAL . . .

UP NEXT
TUESDAY: vs San Jose, 7 p.m. (NESN)
THURSDAY: vs. Tampa Bay, 7:30 p.m. (NBC Sports Network)
SATURDAY: vs. New Jersey, 7 p.m. (NESN)

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