Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Sad Statement On Race In The NHL

Full disclosure... going into Wednesday night's Game 7. I didn't know a whole lot about Joel Ward. He played with the Nashville Predators for a few years before joining the Washington Capitals, and that was pretty much my entire base of knowledge on the man.

I sure as hell know his name now. He put a fairly quick end to a classic Stanley Cup First Round series, in which each of the seven games was decided by a single goal. Four of the games went into overtime... one of them into double-OT. And Ward's goal off a rebound ended an overtime in Game 7.

Joel Ward (42) and the game-winner (screen cap of 
Now, as long as you're not a Bruins fan, there are a lot of right reasons to remember Joel Ward's name, right? Hell, even a Bruins fan has to step back and admire a guy who gets down in front of the goal, ready to knock it in... well, maybe give him/her a couple weeks to heal before bringing up that particular highlight.

Sadly, for a select few, Joel Ward's great play, and the reason they'll remember his name, is synonymous with -- in their words -- someone who doesn't belong.

Doesn't belong in the sport of hockey. Doesn't belong in America. However you want to interpret calling a black hockey player the N-word.

A sad irony is that this filth came from "fans" of the Boston Bruins. After all, Willie O'Ree broke the color barrier in the NHL, and he wore a Boston Bruins sweater.

Much more recently, so did Anson Carter, who has been doing television analysis of late... not to mention running his own entertainment company, even before he retired from the NHL. He wore a Bruins sweater for four years in the late 1990s.

Hell, a Canadiens fan remembers him (blurred for his privacy)...

And Carter certainly remembers Boston (not blurred because... well, he's Anson Carter)...

Carter also retweeted a Boston fan's link to a video imploring fellow fans to stop.

Common sense dictates that, indeed, these are the words and actions of a few. Yet it has such an impact. At least in the short-term, Ward's accomplishment has been overshadowed by the disgusting and hateful words of a few... and on the sport's biggest stage. I'm using the word "few" relatively, of course... judging from the content of this little collection of... well let's call it the latest members of the NHL Fan Racism All Star Team. [Note: This stuff will be hard to stomach for... well, pretty much anyone]

The people chronicled in the above link are actual Twitter users who went off the freakin' deep end, over the Ward goal.

Or at least they were actual Twitter users.

Hey, "im_THAT_dude28," where'd ya go?

"mastabates23"? Where are ya?

These two were among those who -- apparently in some moment of clarity -- realized that "Oh my God, what happens if someone I don't want to Google me, Googles me?" To be fair... maybe others on Twitter reported them as spammers (I doubt it, though).

I clicked on seven random users, and three of them "didn't exist" anymore. Well... except perhaps in the Library of Congress. The others... are still swaying in the social media breeze for all to see. Hope their parents don't read their streams.

Actually, I hope they do.

Because if they're willing -- even in the heat of the moment -- to say or do something so despicable, to stand up and be counted among the worst kind of people... well, they should be prepared to wear that.

Just like the fan who threw a banana at Wayne Simmonds during a preseason game this year. Or Kevin Weekes several years before during a Playoff game in Montreal, and other incidents over the years.

Does this represent a widespread problem with racism in the NHL? Well, if you're thinking in terms of per capita... then no.

But that's the problem with racism... it's the degree of all that hate and ignorance that makes such an impact. One incident is too many. There's already too much ignorance, stupidity and disrespect among the players on the ice, without having to see it come from a handful of fans.

And these relative few spewed racist rants... all because Joel Ward made one hell of a hockey play, and put in a rebound off his backhand.

Not because he's a Washington Capital.

Because he is black.

There's no room for this in sports. Or in life.

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