It was a hard-fought opening round series in the NHL playoffs: the defending Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins, competing against the barely-made-the-playoffs Washington Capitals. Everyone thought it would be a rout, but as everyone knows, once the playoffs begin all bets are off. And when the series went to Game 7 and then in to Overtime it was destined to be classic NHL hockey, with the player who scored the goal an instant hero to his team’s fans and an instant enemy to fans of the other team. Joel Ward’s goal at 2.57 of the first overtime period made him that hero, handing them the series and sending them to round 2 – and sending Boston to the golf course.
Only problem? Joel Ward is black, a Canadian of Barbadian descent, a rare sight in the overwhelmingly Caucasian NHL. And some hockey fans, particularly Boston supporters, chose to vent their playoff disappointment on Twitter – and targeted Joel Ward’s race instead of his hockey skills, with widespread use of the “N” word. Deadspin got screen captures of some of the worst tweets, including the following:
“You guys let the ______ score? I’m done.”
“Of all people to score it had to be the ______”.
The tweets were roundly condemned by the Bruins, the NHL and, most effectively, by other hockey fans on Twitter. Shortly thereafter, many of the offending tweets were deleted as were some of the accounts, their former owners slinking off in to obscurity.
Joel Ward heard of the nasty remarks on the way home to Washington, but didn’t let it faze him. “We won, and we are moving on“, he said “People are going to say what they want to say.”
Both the Bruins and the NHL strongly condemned the language. ““These classless, ignorant views are in no way a reflection of anyone associated with the Bruins organization,” said a Bruins press release.
Racism isn’t something new for the NHL. Just this past January, the NHL investigated when Krys Barch of the Florida Panthers was ejected from a game for using a racial slur against black player P.K. Subban of the Montreal Canadiens. And earlier in the season, Philadelphia player Wayne Simmonds had bananas thrown at him during a game.
Photo credit: Dan4th on Flickr