Former Capitals forward Joel Ward took to Twitter to celebrate his son’s first birthday on Thursday.
“My Robinson turns 1!” Ward wrote. “#WeDidIt. Love my boy ❤️.”
Joel and wife Kitt celebrated Robinson turning one by throwing him a Sesame Street-themed birthday party. Happy Birthday, Robinson banners hang in the background featuring the heads of Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Oscar The Grouch, and Elmo. Robinson’s cake features his name written out on a street sign with the number one.
— Joel Ward (@JRandalWard42) April 17, 2020
Robinson, who was born on April 16, 2019, is named after Jackie Robinson – the Brooklyn Dodgers Hall of Famer who broke baseball’s color barrier.
“I tried (to name my son) Jackie but my wife, she said no — gave it a hard no,” Ward said in a recent interview with NHL.com’s William Douglas. “We had a friend of ours say, ‘Why don’t you flip it around and call him Robinson?’ We kind of went home that night, and I think my wife knew how special it would be to me if she gives me the go-ahead to name him Robinson. We went with it and stuck with it. He’s learning his name a little bit more. He’s got some books at home (about Jackie Robinson) that I’m going to tackle with him.”
Ward wore #29 his first three seasons in the NHL. After breaking out for seven goals and thirteen points during Nashville’s deep playoff run in 2011, Ward signed a four-year, $12-million contract with the Washington Capitals and chose to wear Jackie Robinson’s #42 in honor of Jackie Robinson.
“I was kind of thinking, when our equipment guy, Brock (Myles), called me and said ‘Hey, what number are you thinking [about wearing]?’ I just kind of took a moment to think about things,” Ward explained to Douglas. “I had just finished the (Robinson) biography at that time, and I said ‘Hey, you know what? Let me see if this is available.’ I asked about [No. 42] and, sure enough, it was.
“I could not imagine being the only African American at that time playing on an all-white team in a sport that he loved,” Ward added. “I think his passion for the game really came through, and the example he set off the field was powerful.”
Ward was a leader in the African American community during his time in DC, frequently volunteering his time with the Fort Dupont Cannons – the oldest minority hockey program in the United States. When confronted with racist tweets after his Game 7 game-winner against Boston in 2012, Joel showed poise and maturity.
Recently, Ward returned “home” to Washington DC to drop the ceremonial first puck at the Capitals’ Black History Night. The day before, the former number 42 hosted a street-hockey clinic wearing a Jackie Robinson sweatshirt.
Photos: Elizabeth Kong/RMNB
“He’s one of my heroes,” Ward said. “I thought maybe wearing the number would give me Superman powers.”
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