Saturday night ahead of the Capitals-Sabres game, the Caps organization honored some leaders in the community.
As part of the Capitals’ Black History in Hockey theme night, Fort Dupont coaches John Connor, Ralph Featherstone, Neal Henderson, Hank Lee, and Robert Primus participated in the ceremonial puck drop. The Fort Dupont Cannons are the oldest minority youth hockey program in North America.
February is the NHL’s Hockey Is For Everyone month and is being celebrated league wide.
Honored to have Neal Henderson and the coaches from Fort Dupont Ice Arena to drop the ceremonial first puck at our Black History in Hockey night. #HockeyIsForEveryone #ALLCAPS @KidsOnIce pic.twitter.com/B3tLiIxv2q
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) February 25, 2018
Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin and Sabres alternate captain Kyle Okposo participated in the draw.
The Caps’ Black History in Hockey theme night comes six days after forward Devante Smith-Pelly was subjected to racially-charged taunts by Chicago Blackhawks fans in the penalty box. The four fans were ejected and banned forever from future Blackhawks home games, but the racist encounter was disappointing and demoralizing for DSP.
“It’s sad that [it’s] 2018 we’re still talking about the same thing over and over,” Smith-Pelly said. “It’s sad that athletes like myself 30, 40 years ago, were standing in the same spot, saying the same thing. You’d think that there’d be some sort of change or progression, but we’re still working towards it I guess.”
Blackhawks fans, to distance themselves from the racist fans and also show support to Smith-Pelly, held a fundraiser for Smith-Pelly’s charity of choice. A week after Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Rosenbloom wrote about the idea, Blackhawks fans raised $23,000 via 353 donors. Rosenbloom asked Smith-Pelly where he’d like the money donated to and the Capitals forward picked Fort Dupont.
These coaches from Fort Dupont Ice Arena will be dropping the ceremonial first puck tonight as we celebrate Black History in Hockey at @CapitalOneArena. #HockeyIsForEveryone @KidsOnIce #ALLCAPS pic.twitter.com/Yb3sAPBFEe
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) February 24, 2018
More from the Capitals:
Fort Dupont Ice Arena is the only full-size indoor ice arena in Washington, D.C., and the Cannons are the oldest minority youth hockey program in North America and the oldest ice hockey program that is a member of the Hockey is for Everyone™ initiative. The program’s goal is to teach young people discipline, self-esteem and a sense of purpose and to offer an incentive to excel academically.
The Capitals have a longstanding relationship with Fort Dupont, annually supporting programing and coordinating service projects at the rink. A Monumental Sports & Entertainment Foundation grant also supports two Fort Dupont Up2Us coaches. Earlier this month, Capitals players Madison Bowey, Brooks Orpik and Devante Smith-Pelly hosted the Fort Dupont Cannons at Kettler Capitals Iceplex on Feb. 3 for an Official Rink Partner visit driven by AAA. The players also presented the Cannons with a $22,000 check on behalf of MSE Foundation, made possible by a grant from the Garth Brooks Teammates for Kids Foundation.
The Capitals have been celebrating the National Hockey League’s Hockey is for Everyone Month with several events and initiatives throughout February. In addition, the Capitals have been recognizing different diverse groups during each February home game, also including those with special needs, children, the LGBTQ community, women and the military.
For the 20th year, the NHL has designated February Hockey is for Everyone Month to celebrate grassroots hockey and the game’s growing diversity. The program offers people of all backgrounds opportunities to play hockey and leverages the sport of hockey as a catalyst to teach essential life skills and the core values of hockey: commitment, perseverance and teamwork. In addition, the initiative supports hockey programs that assist disabled military personnel in returning to their mainstream lifestyles.
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