Couple of places in America where black folks are noticeably thin on the ground -Republican and conservative meetings and conventions…
And in the sport of Professional Hockey.
Now – the NHL isn’t doing anything to keep black players out… It’s just a confluence of circumstance which results in few high level black Hockey players being developed to matriculate into the professional level.
I am not a Hockey fan, although to be honest you can’t avoid the hype for the local team, the Washington Capitals, the hoopla when they make the playoffs, or the catchy moniker someone came up with for their former Goalie (Oalie the Goalie) …And under the heading that when a local franchise does well and excels – it is worth everyone in the neighborhood at least giving some recognition – there is the fact that the Capitals made the playoffs this year despite dire predictions to the contrary.
A pleasant surprise last night when turning on the local news was the breathless announcement by the sports announcer lady that the Caps had won a last game, last minute, last second victory to move on in the playoffs against the former champion Boston Bruins.
An even bigger surprise was that the player who sunk the winning goal was a black man.
A very self-depreciating, modest, and well spoken black man.
Think all those Caps fans could give a damn about that last, they are too ecstatic about the fact his goal won the game.
Washington Capitals forward Joel Ward said the racial slurs directed at him on Twitter after he scored the series-winning overtime goal to eliminate the Boston Bruins were “shocking to see, but it didn’t ruin my day.”
“It doesn’t faze me at all,” Ward told USA TODAY Sports. “We won, and we are moving on. … People are going to say what they want to say.”
He said he didn’t know about the issue until Washington teammate Jeff Halpern brought it to his attention on the team plane heading home from Boston. Ward said Halpern “apologized” that Ward had to see that.
“Halpern just took offense that people weren’t talking about the goal, (but rather) getting into racist remarks,” Ward said. “I think he was telling me he had my back, and felt bad that (some Twitter users) were talking about the negative side, instead of how we are moving on.”
The NHL, in a statement, said, “The racially charged comments distributed via digital media following last night’s game were ignorant and unacceptable. The people responsible for these comments have no place associating themselves with our game.”
Ward, 31, a four-year NHL veteran, says he never has before experienced any racist remarks directed toward him at the NHL level.
“Growing up, at a few minor tournaments, you catch a few kids saying things,” Ward said. “But at that age, I didn’t even know what the terminology meant. But (at this level) I’ve never heard anything. I know other guys have, I believe, but I’ve had nothing directed to me like that.”
Ward’s goal at 2:57 of overtime knocked off the defending Stanley Cup champions and put the Capitals into the second round against a still-undetermined opponent. Ward had six goals in 73 games this season. “It was definitely the biggest goal I’ve ever been a part of,” he said.
Said Ward’s teammate, Matt Hendricks: “It was the greatest feeling ever after the game, winning Game 7 in Boston. Then you get on the plane afterward, and have all of this come to life. … It just made me sick to my stomach.”
Hendricks said he couldn’t get the tweets out of his mind. “What we accomplished just went out the window,” he said. “I couldn’t think about that any more. It was very disappointing.”
Philadelphia Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds, who trains with Ward in the offseason, called the tweets disgusting.
“Obviously, things get said,” Simmonds said. “It’s the internet. They can say whatever they want and they don’t have to show their face. It’s disgusting. I’ve had things like that happen to me before.”
During a Flyers-Detroit Red Wings preseason game in London, Ontario last Sept. 22, a 26-year-old hockey fan threw a banana peel onto the ice as Simmonds was attempting a shootout attempt.
“It’s not something that you want to happen, but it’s sad in this day and age that it continues to happen,” Simmonds said. “I’m sure Ward is not even paying attention to it. It is what it is. People can be as gutless as they want and they don’t have to show up. They just throw a comment out there on the internet. It’s getting kind of ridiculous.
“I think social media is not meant for that. It’s to say, ‘Hey, nice goal, congratulations.’ ”
Ward said he hasn’t had time to comb through all of the comments on his own personal Twitter account, but he has seen a summary of the racist-tone posts on various website blogs.
“I think it is just kids,” Ward said. “It has no effect on me whatsoever. I’ve been playing this game long enough and I’ve not had any encounters of that nature.”
He said he has always felt comfortable in an NHL dressing room and on the ice.
“There is no lying about it. …I’m definitely the one black guy in a room with 20 white guys,” Ward said. “There are definitely some cultural differences, such as taste in music, but I’ve never heard anything derogatory.”
He says he has no concern about his safety moving forward in the playoffs.
“I’m pretty laid-back and I get along with a lot of people,” Ward said. “I don’t fear anything like that, and I have a good group of guys to protect me.”
Ward said his goal today is to go on his Twitter account and thank the people who came to his defense through social media. Many have gone after those who posted racist remarks. Some who have made racist comments have already closed their accounts. One person apologized.
“I’m definitely getting a lot of support,” Ward said. “There have been a lot of Boston fans who have supported me, which is very cool to see. No hard feelings from me. This is a game.”