Several fans in Chicago were ejected from the Blackhawks' game against the Washington Capitals for comments directed at Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly.
Smith-Pelly, who was in the penalty box, was visibly upset by what the fans said and picked up his stick and confronted them through the glass about it. Per the Washington Post's Isabelle Khurshudyan, the group was saying "basketball, basketball, basketball," at Smith-Pelly, who is black. A group of four, per Khurshudyan, were kicked out of the game after the off-ice official confirmed what the fans were saying.
The Blackhawks released the following statement after the game, acknowledging the incident:
"We were made aware of an incident at tonight's game involving a small group of attendees who made harmful comments directed at Washington Capitals player Devante Smith-Pelly. The fans were immediately removed and we apologize to Smith-Pelly and the Washington Capitals organization. We are committed to providing an inclusive environment for everyone who attends our games and these actions will never be tolerated."
“There’s absolutely no place in the game of hockey or our country for racism and I think it’s disgusting. There's no place for it," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said postgame.
NBC Sports Washington's Tarik El-Bashir reported Smith-Pelly would likely "address the situation at the next media availability."
February is "Hockey is for Everyone" month in the NHL, and the incident occurred during a 7-1 Blackhawks win.