On February 17th, the Washington Capitals played an abysmal game in Chicago against the Blackhawks. The game ended in a 7-1 loss for the Capitals, but something much more concerning happened late in the third period.
Four Blackhawks fans directed racially-charged taunts at Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly, “basketball, basketball, basketball,” while he was in the penalty box.
Smith-Pelly was emotional after the game and candid about the comments a day later, letting everyone know that we all need to start calling people out for racism. But he also was surprised this was still happening in 2018. At the rink, on the subway, or on the street, DSP’s comment served as a reminder to everyone to act when they hear these awful types of harassment.
Smith-Pelly’s teammates rallied around him at the time and so have fans.
While the four fans that spewed the hateful taunts were banned from attending future Blackhawks games, it’s what the rest of the Blackhawks fanbase did that turned an ugly story into a positive.
Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Rosenbloom received an email, after the event, that suggested Blackhawks fans donate to a charity of Smith-Pelly’s choosing “as a sort of civic apology”. Rosenbloom immediately published a story to point Blackhawks fans in the direction of Fort Dupont Ice Arena, which was the charity Smith-Pelly had chosen. Eventually, the group of Blackhawks fans donated $23,000 to the Ice Arena.
Not only did these Chicago Blackhawks fans get a shoutout from DSP himself, but they also made an impact on the NYC Caps Crew, who now want to do something similar.
Just wanted to say a huge thanks to @steverosenbloom and all the hockey fans in Chicago who have contributed and supported the Fort DuPont program in DC. I appreciate all the support that I have received from my teammates and so many in the hockey community.
— Devante Smith-Pelly (@smithpelly23) February 23, 2018
Fatou Bah is a black New York City resident and one of the leading ladies of the NYC Caps Crew. She was brought into the Caps family by her dear friend, and fellow Caps Crew member, Ellery.
“I know him from Redskins meetups and his pitch to me at that time was, ‘Come watch a DC team that actually makes the playoffs!'”
The year was 2011 and the Capitals were facing the New York Rangers.
“The only thing I knew about hockey was that Ovechkin was on our team and he was good,” Bah said. “Ellery invited me to watch the playoffs, which was only about 10-15 of us, and I saw Alex Semin and yelled, ‘We have a player named Semin!’ — totally mispronouncing his name. The room got silent, looked at me, then cheered. I was hooked from there.”
The Capitals were promptly swept by the Tampa Bay Lightning, but that experience was enough for Fatou to find her hockey family and never look back.
Along with her friends in the group, she was deeply affected by what happened with Smith-Pelly. Unfortunately, Fatou has had a very similar experience at a hockey game where people taunted her saying, “This is not a basketball game”, “Obamacare”, and made comments about about her hair.
“I knew exactly what they meant to say. I also know how it feels to want to attack back, but wrestle with being the bigger person and not letting those awful people get a reaction from you,” Bah said. “It hurt my soul to watch DSP and his teammates talk about that experience. Believe me, there’s a million other things DSP would rather talk about but when something like this happens, it’s imperative you let people know how this experience made you feel and why it has no business in this world. It’s a very lonely feeling having others make you feel like you don’t belong.””
Bah’s negative experiences gave her a closer bond to the NYC Caps Crew. They were witnesses to these attacks, were just as offended as she, and didn’t hesitate to defend her.
“They let me know that we are a family so them talking down on me is them talking down on all of us,” Bah said. “It hurts that these awesome players who are black – PK, Wayne Simmonds, Joel Ward, etc – have to still have to deal with mess like that.”
It’s easy to let the negativity consume you, Bah told me, but it’s even better when you can turn this negative energy into a positive experience, like the Caps Crew helping Fort Dupont Ice Arena.
Bah, a Southwest Washington, DC native, understands the importance of having an after-school activity or a weekend escape for these kids. “I was lucky enough to have a wonderful after school program in SW that focused on teaching us science, technology and African history. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about a lot of my classmates. Having this program in my life shielded me from much of the negativity happening in my surrounding neighborhoods.”
Bah mentioned that her after school program helped build her self-esteem and rewarded her when she would get the answers right about history. “It gave me a sense of self-worth taught me that the sky was the limit – I had a true place in the world where I could make a difference in the world and provide as a functioning member of society. They were a second family to me. This is exactly why this program spoke to me.”
The Caps fan even mentioned that one of the NYC Caps Crew members, Justin, used to frequent Fort Dupont Ice Arena when he was younger. “He told me how much equipment they need, so it was a go from there. It’s our pleasure to be able to meet-up to raise awareness and money for a great cause for our home community that we love so much.”
It’s all fine and dandy to read about this awesome charity night, but maybe you might be in the dark about who the New York City Capitals Crew actually is? They are a fierce bunch of Capitals fans that just happen to live in New York City. Seems simple enough, but Fatou wants you to know it’s a whole lot more than that.
“The NYC Caps Crew is my family in New York,” Bah said. “New York City can be a very lonely city but it’s so comforting having a group of people who came from where you came from, root for your same team. The familiarity is much appreciated in such a big city.”
The NYC Caps Crew is made up of people that have some specific tie to Washington, DC. When I first moved to New York City and began attending their meetups, it was wonderfully comforting to mention an obscure DMV thing or place and people immediately resonating with it.
For Bah, this group of people simply started out as people she enjoyed watching her favorite hockey team with. Now? They’re some of her closest friends. “They are the ones I find myself going to for advice on life! They are the first people I told when a got a new job. I’m incredibly thankful for them for exposing me to new experiences – hockey being the first. They’ve been so incredibly accepting and open to me and I can’t imagine my life without them.”
Is knowing every little detail about hockey important for someone to join the NYC Caps Crew? Absolutely not, and in fact, Fatou didn’t grow up watching hockey. “I feel like the rookie because I didn’t grow up watching hockey, but they have taught me so much and even compliment me when I come up with a thoughtful hot take. When Tom Wilson scored that OT in Game One vs Toronto, I received so much love because I actually predicted that would happen. They make me feel like a full fledged hockey fan who’s opinion is valued and needs to be shared – like how your family would make you feel. I’ve seen from experience that they have my back just like I have theirs. It makes rooting for this team extra special!”
The NYC Caps Crew meets regularly to watch regular season games, playoff games, and games in person. “We’ve been doing meet-ups for over 5 years. It’s usually 2-3 official events per quarter and go to all of the Caps games in New Jersey and Brooklyn. We have to pay rent so we can’t do MSG as often,” said Bah. While the regular season meetups are a bit more scarce, they playoffs are a completely different ballgame. The NYC Caps Crew meets for every playoff game. “These meet-ups have become our getaway from real life where we chant the night away and give our squad luck. We’ve actually never had a Charity Night before, so I’m really happy it’s happening.”
On Saturday, April 7th, the NYC Caps Crew is hosting their first charity night at Jojo’s Philosophy Bar and Grill in lower Manhattan. The Crew is raising money online for Friends of Fort Dupont Ice Arena, on behalf of Devante Smith-Pelly, to help introduce the sport we love to a new generation of DC, Maryland, and Virginia players and fans.
What do they hope for at the end of the evening? For Bah, this event brings her closer to her hometown of Washington, DC.
“It’s a treat to be able to give back to the community that has made me the person that I am. I’m a little miffed that we haven’t thought of this earlier but better late than never.”
The NYC Caps Crew wants to make sure that everyone realizes that every dollar spent will help these wonderful kids experience a sport that they may not have been able to afford if not for the donations. “I want everyone to walk away knowing their contributions helped these kids fund their favorite pastime or even better, help fund these kids’ dream to pursue this full-time.”
During the game, the Crew will be taking additional donations for Friends of Fort Dupont Ice Arena as well as bringing along some sweet merchandise and hosting a raffle! The Crew already has some shirt available to order on Etsy. Roughly $15 per shirt will go to Friend’s of Fort Dupont Ice Arena.
Need another added bonus? I’ll be taking over the RMNB instagram account for the night, so you can possibly appear in the background of one of my messy uploads.
So, have you ever wanted to take a weekend trip to New York City? Do you want to see the famous sights, like the Empire State Building, the subway rats, or me having 15 Coors Lights in the span of two hours?! Take a trip up here this weekend for the final game on April 7th and come to the Greenwich Village area for a fun night of chanting and charity with the Crew. If you already live here, I’m assuming I’ll just see you there.
Here are the details:
Who: The NYC Caps Crew
What: Fundraising Night/Caps vs. Devils
When: 7:00 PM on Saturday, April 7th
Where: Jojo’s Philosophy Bar and Grill in lower Manhattan
Why: To Support Friends of Fort Dupont Ice Arena on behalf of Washington Capitals’ player Devante Smith-Pelly and the introduce the sport to a new generation of kids.
How Can I Join: Show up, but before you do….DONATE HERE to Friends of Fort Dupont Ice Arena.
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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