ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — Washington Capitals players tapped the ice with sticks when Joel Ward skated onto the rink for practice Friday, 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 on Wednesday to end the first-round series against the Boston Bruins.
"I don't let it bother me at all," Ward said as the Capitals returned to practice ahead of Saturday's Game 1 against the New York 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."