Devante Smith-Pelly has become a fan favorite in Washington, especially after scoring seven goals during the Stanley Cup playoffs. He’s also one of roughly thirty players of color in the National Hockey League.
Smith-Pelly has faced challenges because of race, including this past February, when he was the target of racist chants during a Blackhawks game in Chicago. Smith-Pelly has said previously that being a minority player can have “a little bit of a lonely feeling.”
Smith-Pelly was interviewed by ABC 7’s Robert Burton during Media Day and spoke about what it meant to bring the Stanley Cup to a city with a large Black population.
— Robert Burton (@ABC7Robert) October 2, 2018
“To see how the city’s embraced me, it means the world,” Smith-Pelly said. “To hear people chanting at the parade, and to see a lot of people of color at the parade, wearing jerseys in the crowd, cheering. It’s amazing to see.”
Some might see the responsibility of being a role model as an added pressure, but Smith-Pelly welcomes it.
“It’s a good feeling,” Smith-Pelly said. “There’s a lot of little kids out there—little kids of color—if twenty years from now just one of them gets a scholarship for hockey or ends up playing in the league, they’ll look back at that day, where they saw someone who looked like them–at the parade, on the team—that could change their life, change how they want to live their life.”
Last season was Smith-Pelly’s first season with the Capitals, and he was nominated for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy for his work with the Fort DuPont Cannons, the oldest minority youth hockey program in North America.
“If I could change just one kid’s life,” Smith-Pelly said, “that would mean the world to me.”
Headline photo: Bruce Bennett
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