By Ian Oland
Devante Smith-Pelly is back in Washington DC for the first time since leaving the Capitals after the 2018-19 season. Smith-Pelly will drop the ceremonial first puck during the team’s Black History celebration against the New York Rangers at 1 pm.
Smith-Pelly will always be celebrated in these parts due to his incredible and clutch performance during the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs, which earned him the distinction of “unlikely hero” from Wayne Gretzky.
DSP scored seven goals in those 24 playoff games – including the game-tying goal in Game Five of the Stanley Cup Final – which helped give the Capitals their first championship.
When speaking to the media, DSP was asked about that run and what made it most special. For DSP, it wasn’t the goals on the ice – though of course, that was amazing. It was what he saw on top of the double-decker bus during the team’s championship parade.
“[The Stanley Cup] means a lot,” Smith-Pelly said on Friday during Capitals practice. “Obviously, winning is special but winning in this area with this demographic and stuff is huge. If you saw the parade, a whole different bunch of people – black kids, black parents, stuff like that – which to me is important. I think it’s important in growing the game, and getting new people involved.
“I think in a couple years, 10 years, 15 years, you’re going to see kids that were at that parade playing professional hockey and stuff like that. It’s exciting. That’s what it’s all about.”
Smith-Pelly, who chose to wear a WWE championship belt and a silly Andre Burakovsky hat (Old School homage) during the parade, took photos with fans and flashed a huge smile on his face almost the entire time he intermingled with fans.
WUSA did a feature on DSP explaining how he was opening doors for Black fans and youth hockey players around the area.
“There are African Americans that play hockey, that love hockey, love sports,” one fan says in the feature.
“We see you, it makes a hell of a difference,” says another. “It also opens the door to let young Black African Americans know that, ‘Hey, I can do this.’ Keep doing what you’re doing, man. I look up to you.”
Fast forward nearly five years later, DSP has retired, but his impact is still felt in this area. One of those players he likely impacted was 10-year-old Keivonn Woodard, a talented youth hockey player from Maryland who plays for Bowie Hockey Club.
What a pleasure to have one of DC's Rising Stars on the ice and in Hollywood with us today at practice!
Keivonn Woodard, a 10-year-old deaf actor and youth hockey player, hails from Prince George County and most recently starred in the HBO drama "The Last Of Us."#ALLCAPS pic.twitter.com/VTmjWkS7Ge
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) February 24, 2023
When Smith-Pelly is introduced to Caps faithful on Saturday, he’s expected to get a huge ovation.
“It’s good,” DSP said of the team’s celebration of its Black history. “It shows that they obviously care. Having 11 [Black] guys play for the same organization is significant. I appreciate it. I appreciate how they handled my situation when I was here and stuff like that. I appreciate how they handled Wardo’s and all that stuff. It’s definitely something that doesn’t go unnoticed. I appreciate them for that.”
A very warm welcome to Devante Smith-Pelly, Kwame Mason, Rob Zilla and Saukrates!
Thank you for helping make today's Black history celebration at Capital One Arena a special one. #ALLCAPS | #BHM pic.twitter.com/xnUbjgkVNM
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) February 25, 2023
Headline photo: Alan Dobbins/RMNB
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
All original content on russianmachineneverbreaks.com is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)– unless otherwise stated or superseded by another license. You are free to share, copy, and remix this content so long as it is attributed, done for noncommercial purposes, and done so under a license similar to this one.