- The Washington Times - Monday, January 14, 2019

ARLINGTON, Va. — Monday night’s game between the Washington Capitals and the St. Louis Blues was not just a run-of-the-mill regular season game. Not for Divyne Apollon II or his teammates on the Metro Maple Leafs.

The Capitals hosted Apollon and the Maple Leafs as special guests at the game, after Devante Smith-Pelly and John Carlson learned about an incident earlier this month in which Apollon, the Maple Leafs’ only black player, faced racist taunts from an opposing team.

The taunts included monkey sounds, the N-word and cries of “Go play basketball,” according to a Washington Post column.

After the game, Apollon’s teammates started to yell at the opposing team and a fight ensued.

“I just think it was kind of inspiring how they all stuck together,” Carlson said. “That’s great for kids, especially. They’re not that old yet, they haven’t seen too much yet. To stick up for each other, to stand up for each other.

The Maple Leafs, a 14-and-under travel team based in Odenton, Maryland, got the chance to meet several Capitals players in their locker room after Monday’s game.

Smith-Pelly, a black Canadian, was taunted in Chicago last year by fans who chanted “basketball” at him during a game, implying that black athletes can’t play hockey.

“(I’ve) gone through it when I was younger. This age as well,” Smith-Pelly said.

Smith-Pelly thought about reaching out to Apollon when Carlson approached him with the same idea. He planned to express gratitude to the Maple Leafs for standing up for him.

“There’s people who are gonna think that way and it’s pretty closed-minded, dumb way to think,” he said. “The message I think is gonna be it’s amazing that you guys stood up and you guys have the right mindset, and you guys aren’t falling into the trap of thinking the way those other kids did. To Divyne, we’re gonna say obviously it’s garbage and keep your head up and keep playing.”

“You think that you wouldn’t have to deal with that these days, but it’s obviously still present,” Carlson added. “Hopefully this great story about the team standing up for each other and how Divyne stood up for himself, it’s a good step forward. And hopefully (we’ll) show some people the real way to act, how to love each other.”

Coach Todd Reirden said it was important to the Capitals’ organization to have a positive impact in the local hockey community in ways like this.

“It’s things like that that make me really proud to coach these players,” Reirden said.

• Adam Zielonka can be reached at azielonka@washingtontimes.com.

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