The Washington Capitals’ most noticeable reaction to racist Internet comments directed at Joel Ward had nothing to do with questions and answers. That came at the start of Friday’s practice as players tapped their sticks on the ice when he stepped on.
But a few guys gave their opinions Friday when prompted with the topic that has now garnered national attention.
Jeff Halpern was the first to show Ward some of the Twitter messages using racial slurs. His reaction?
“Probably shock at first. It’s not a handful, it’s a large number. It’s a bunch of idiots, and I don’t know if that’s a good representation of the hockey community,” Halpern said. “I think Wardo, a lot of people in his situation have had to deal with stuff like that for a long time. It was shocking to see that people are that public about it, too. I don’t know if that’s a representation of the hockey community. I think the hockey community rallied behind Wardo and supported him.”
That so many, from owner Ted Leonsis to D.C. mayor Vincent Gray to the NHL and Boston Bruins shouted down those “idiots” is something positive.
“It’s crazy. It’s crazy to think they can get away with it too, especially social media, it’s out there,” Halpern said. “I would imagine that those peoples’ lives are going to become miserable, which they should.”
Turns out it is getting miserable for a few of those who sent the tweets. According to the Boston Herald, one fan said he was receiving death threats, and a student at Franklin Pierce University was facing possible discipline from the school.
According to what Ward told USA Today on Thursday, Halpern was angry that the right wing’s overtime Game 7-winning goal was being overshadowed by the tweets.
“You get a few idiots out there who ruin a beautiful moment for somebody,” forward Jason Chimera said Friday.
Alex Ovechkin’s advice was to not let it bother Ward.
“It’s the people, it’s the fans. I don’t think he going to read it or he going to think about it. He knows we love him like a person, like a hockey player here. But the fans, sometimes they say good things, sometimes they say bad things,” the captain said. “I don’t know, maybe it’s something new for him. But my advice for him just don’t listen to what people say, good things or bad things. You just have to concentrate. That’s it.”
Ovechkin complimented Ward for how he’s handled the situation.
“Yeah, he’s strong and he’s funny,” he said. “He’s, right now, Michael Jordan of hockey.”