Blackhawks winger Anthony Duclair condemned the actions of fans who were ejected from the United Center during the team’s 7-1 victory Saturday after they racially taunted Capitals winger Devante Smith-Pelly. But, at the same time, he wasn’t all that shocked that it occurred.
“It happens so often not only in hockey or in sports, but in society as a whole,” Duclair said.
He later continued: “It’s not OK. Whether it happens to Devante Smith-Pelly or a random person on the street, you should be comfortable in your own skin and gender and nationality or religion, your beliefs. Everyone’s equal.”
Duclair said the incident — fans chanted, “basketball, basketball, basketball,” at Smith-Pelly, who is black, while he was in the penalty box — was unacceptable and disappointing. The Hawks banned the four fans from future games Monday.
“You would think there’d be some change after some years,” he said. “How do I feel? I mean, like, we have some Blackhawks fans that think a certain way. If they’re Blackhawks fans, they would know there is a black hockey player on the team.
“It’s really tough [to internalize it],” said Duclair, who’s one of about 30 black players in the NHL. “It’s obviously a white sport, and you just want to go out there and compete. There’s obviously some ignorant people in this world, so you have to deal with that.”
Duclair said he’s no stranger to being in Smith-Pelly’s situation. Growing up and playing hockey, Duclair said he was subjected to name-calling and gestures. He felt defenseless, adding: “What are you going to do as a kid?”
Now that Duclair is playing in the NHL, he feels the need to use his platform to speak up for those who don’t have a voice.
“You can’t just brush it off,” he said. “You have to make sure these people are held accountable.”
And his teammates have his back. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane said there’s no place for racism in society, let alone a sports venue.
“It’s terrible,” Kane said. “I don’t think any of us are too fond to be reported in that. Even though it’s at a Blackhawks game, there’s not much you can really do except try to defend Smith-Pelly and whoever’s in that situation. Even in here, as a locker room and as a team, we feel there’s no place for that in the game or in society.”
Coach Joel Quenneville didn’t offer up much of an update on goalie Corey Crawford other than saying he had another off-ice workout. Crawford was on the ice for the first time since being put on injured reserve with a head injury in late December when he participated in the morning skate last week in Arizona.
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