I stopped watching hockey in 2012 after Washington Capitals forward Joel Ward was
the target of racial slurs on social media following a game wining goal during the
playoffs. The Ward comments followed an incident in Ontario in 2011 where
Wayne Simmonds had bananas thrown at him during a preseason game. At the time I didn’t
feel the need to follow a sport where the fans didn’t respect people of color and went
out of their way to express their racial insensitivity.
At the urging of friends, fans, and followers I gave the NHL another chance this year.
Why let a few bad apples spoil the bunch? Hockey is a sport that I enjoy watching and
I shouldn’t let the actions of a few ignorant spectators dictate what I will and won’t do.
The 2014 NHL playoffs got off to a great start and I was an interested observer. I
picked Chicago and Boston to reach the Stanley Cup finals and things were going
according to plan. The LA Kings won 4 straight, the New York Rangers survived
a scare, and the Montreal Canadiens took care of business to advance. The NHL
playoffs had lots of excitement and storylines. Then the 2nd round started and everything
Once again a Black man scored a game winning goal in the playoffs. Once again racist fans
took to social media with racist comments and tweets. Once again I’ve turned my back on
the NHL. I can only turn the other cheek so many times. 3 incidents in 3 years lets me know
there’s a trend with hockey fans. These are not isolated incidents, it’s a mind set.
I’m not saying all hockey fans are racist. I’m not saying the NHL is racist. I’m saying there’s
a culture associated with the game that I don’t support. I’m not naive enough to think that
people aren’t capable of overreacting in emotional situations, but I would prefer to watch a
sport where fans can be upset at the players as individuals, not at the color of their skin. They
don’t throw bananas in football, baseball, or basketball so I’ll stick with those.
As a professional and the self proclaimed expert on all things sports related I can’t completely
ignore hockey. Much like European soccer (another sport where they still throw bananas) the
sport is bigger than the actions of a few fans. That doesn’t mean I have to like it and support
it though. If the climate changes I’m open to re-visiting the idea of being a hockey fan, but for
now I’m good.