Zac Boyer will provide you with the latest updates from the Washington Nationals, the Washington Capitals, the Washington Wizards and D.C. United on this blog when in attendance. Follow Zac on Twitter (@ZacBoyer) for the latest updates.
CAPITALS: Joel Ward On Backlash: ‘The Battle Will Always Be There’
ARLINGTON – When Joel Ward stepped onto the rink at Kettler Capitals Iceplex for the Washington Capitals’ practice Friday morning, the hundred or so people gathered around the boards and in the stands gave him a round of applause and standing ovation.
Ward responded with a tap of his stick and a thankful nod. It’s been a long two days for the Capitals forward, who experienced the highs of a game-winning goal Wednesday and the lows of a racist social media backlash.
The 31-year-old Ward eliminated Boston on Wednesday, shoveling the puck past Bruins goalie Tim Thomas after Mike Knuble’s two-on-one went off Thomas’ right pad. The goal came 2:57 into overtime of Game 7 of the team’s Eastern Conference quarterfinal series and at the expense of the defending Stanley Cup champions on their home ice.
“It’s been great,” Ward said. “You know, for me personally, it was great to contribute and that was the main thing for me – to really get back into things, to really feel a part of it and to contribute in a game like that was huge for myself.”
It was the first goal Ward had scored since Feb. 24 against Montreal, which came on an empty net, with the previous on Jan. 7 at San Jose.
Because of the timing – it eliminated the Bruins from the playoffs – there was a vitriolic response. Several people subjected Ward, who is black, to racist taunts and heckling on Twitter.
“The only reason Joel Ward is playing hockey is because he got cut from the basketball team in high school,” one tweet read. “What goes around comes around for Tim Thomas. He snubs Barack [Obama and] his twin Joel Ward scores the winner,” another said.
The Bruins issued a statement immediately condemning the actions. Capitals owner Ted Leonsis replied on his personal web site Friday by doing the same.
“Shame on these folks who decided to take to their keyboards and show their ignorance and their racism and hate,” Leonsis wrote. “What these people have said and done is unforgivable. I hope they are now publicly identified and pay a huge price for their beliefs. … [Ward] has been a great teammate and a great citizen. He is now the star of stars in our city for his heroics [Wednesday] night.”
Ward, for his part, downplayed the uproar. He said “the battle will always be there, and it’s just one of those incidents, just a topic that will always exist” and said the support from Washington, Boston, his previous three years in Nashville and his hometown of Toronto has been overwhelming.
“For me, it’s pretty simple,” said Ward, who wears No. 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson. “I don’t let it bother me at all. It’s just a few people that made a couple of terrible comments, but what can you do? I know what I signed up for. I’m a black guy playing a predominantly white sport, and it’s just gonna come with the territory. I’d feel naïve or foolish to think that it doesn’t exist. It is what it is, and it’s gonna be part of here, part of life, and that’s just what it is.”
1. Be respectful. No personal attacks.
2. Please avoid offensive, vulgar, abusive, hateful or defamatory language.
3. Read and follow THE RULES.
4. Please notify us by flagging posts that are inappropriate.
Posts that include links, and posts from users with unverified e-mail addresses may take longer to appear.