Capitals

Smith-Pelly reunites with Caps teammates, reflects on DC tenure

Capitals
Former Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly

ARLINGTON, Va. — Eight-year NHL veteran and 2018 Stanley Cup champion Devante Smith-Pelly visited the Capitals’ practice facility Friday, reuniting with some of his former teammates ahead of doing the ceremonial puck drop ahead of Saturday’s game against the New York Rangers as part of Black History Night.

“It’s been a while,” Smith-Pelly said of seeing his former teammates in person. “Aside from Tom [Wilson], I haven’t seen any of the guys since I left. So, we still talk, obviously, but it’s not the same as hugging and looking in the eye and stuff like that but it’s great. I missed the guys for sure and it’s great to see them.”

Seven players from the Capitals’ championship roster remain in Washington: Wilson, Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, John Carlson, Lars Eller, Evgeny Kuznetsov and T.J. Oshie. He caught up with several of them in the morning before watching them practice from the bench.

“It was great,” Ovechkin said. “We have lots of great memories together. We won the Cup together. He was a big part of the team and it was nice to see him. We have lots of good memories.”

Smith-Pelly, who announced his retirement from the NHL in December, hasn’t yet started to feel the emotions of returning to D.C. but admitted he was nervous about taking the ice Saturday at Capital One Arena for the puck drop. He’s looking forward to having one last moment with the fans to bookend his hockey career.

 

Though he played for four different teams throughout his career, Smith-Pelly’s time in Washington stands out in his mind. The roads are still familiar, the organization treated him well, he won a Stanley Cup and he played a role in drawing more fans from the city’s diverse population to the sport.

“Obviously winning is special but winning in this area with the demographic and stuff like that is huge,” Smith-Pelly said. “I think you saw at the parade a whole different bunch of people, Black kids, Black parents, stuff like that, which to me is important. I think is important in growing the game is getting new people involved so I think in a couple of years, 10 years, 15 years, you’re going to see kids that were at that parade playing professional hockey and stuff like that and that’s exciting. That’s what it’s all about.”