Washington Capitals players tapped the ice with sticks when Joel Ward skated onto the ice for practice Friday at Arlington, Va., and some fans rose for a standing ovation in support of the player whose series-winning goal was greeted with a racial outburst on Twitter.
The 31-year-old left wing, one of a handful of black players in the NHL, was the target of numerous degrading tweets after he scored in overtime of Game 7 Wednesday to end the first-round series against the Bruins.
“I don’t let it bother me at all,’’ Ward said as the Capitals returned to practice for Saturday’s Game 1 against the Rangers in the Eastern Conference semifinals. “It’s a few people that just made a couple of terrible comments, and what can you do? I know what I signed up for. I’m a black guy playing a predominantly white sport. It’s just going to come with the territory. I’d feel naive or foolish to think that it doesn’t exist. It’s a battle I think will always be there.’’
The hockey community has rallied around Ward. Both the Bruins and the NHL quickly condemned the tweets, as did Capitals owner Ted Leonsis, who wrote on his blog: “Shame on these folks who decided to take to their keyboards and show their ignorance and their racism and hate.’’
On Friday, teammate Jason Chimera criticized the “few idiots out there who ruin a beautiful moment for somebody.’’
“There’s been a lot of support from everybody, especially my teammates and the whole organization and the Bruins, and some of their fans,’’ Ward said. “I was blown away by the amount of people and the amount of support.’’
Hart finalists announced
Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers, center Evgeni Malkin of the Penguins, and right wing Steven Stamkos of the Lightning are the finalists for the Hart Trophy for the NHL’s most valuable player in the regular season.
The winner will be announced June 20 at the NHL awards ceremony in Las Vegas.