In recent months, the NHL has begun to at least attempt to address the racial issues deeply embedded within the sport’s culture and the larger societal and systemic issues of racial inequality and police violence toward black people.
The return to hockey has featured a number of statements and symbolic gestures - the strength and understanding of which have varied, of course - from teams and the league as a whole. The Caps, for their part, put out the following statement prior to last Wednesday’s exhibition game:
The key to this statement seemed to be that the statement itself, and just the act of the team standing together with the Hurricanes during the anthems, was not enough - and that there was more to come.
Today the team announced a comprehensive set of initiatives to tackle diversity in hockey and racial inequality from three angles: youth hockey, education, and awareness.
Read on for the team’s full release and a breakdown of each of these new and ongoing initatives:
ARLINGTON, Va. – The Washington Capitals announced today the organization is launching a series of public and internal initiatives that focus on diversity in hockey, racial equality and the recognition of achievements by Black individuals.
“We recognize our influence and the higher sense of responsibility we have to inspire constructive change, and after taking time to carefully examine how we can best use our resources to support racial equality, we are proud to focus on several initiatives that share the goal of having long-term impact toward diversity and inclusion in our community,” said Capitals president Dick Patrick. “While taking these immediate steps, we also recognize systemic racism is an ongoing issue. We will remain concentrated on further re-evaluating our existing programs and identifying additional ways the Capitals organization can combat racial injustices.”
The Capitals immediate efforts focus on three pillars: youth hockey, education and awareness. Highlights of these initiatives include:
ALL CAPS at Fort Dupont: Pending approval from local health authorities, the Capitals will hold a team practice at Fort Dupont Ice Arena. Students from DC Public schools, community centers and area hockey programs will be invited to the practice. In addition, the Capitals will host an all-day hockey event in celebration of the Fort Dupont Cannons featuring players, alumni and hockey staff to honor and bring awareness to the Cannons and their hockey programming. The event will feature a public skate, street hockey, a panel session and more. The practice will be broadcast live on Capitals social media channels. More information will be announced at a later date.
Fort Dupont Ice Arena is the only full-size indoor ice arena in Washington, D.C., and the Cannons are the oldest minority youth hockey program in North America. The Capitals have a long-standing relationship with Fort Dupont, having assisted with Fort Dupont’s fundraising campaign for a new rink, provided multiple scholarships to Fort Dupont scholar-athletes, and donated equipment to the Cannons. In addition, the Capitals annually host the Cannons at MedStar Capitals Iceplex or visit Fort Dupont to participate in a Cannons practice. Through the Garth Brooks Teammates for Kids program, Capitals players also donated $227,400 to Fort Dupont to date.
Capital Impact Fund: Beginning with the 2020-21 season, the Capitals will launch a program that designates funds to organizations that can assist in
eliminating cost barriers faced by local minority youth players. The fund will help minority youth players reach their greatest potential and will help create more equal playing fields for all. Capitals players will be able to contribute a predetermined sum to the initiative based on selected on-ice performance categories such as goals, assists or wins. More information on fund details will be released at a later date. Fans are also able to donate to the Capital Impact Fund at WashCaps.com.
Access to the Game: Over the past two seasons, the Capitals have built more than 10 rinks across Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., with an additional two new rink builds in progress. Through funding from the league, the Capitals will continue to pledge funds toward building rinks and multi-sport facilities in low-income neighborhoods with the goal of increasing diversity and inclusion in the game. The Capitals will also continue working with local school systems to engage children through the sport of hockey.
In 2016, the Capitals launched a partnership with DC Public Schools that introduced more than 48,000 students across 111 schools through a multi-week street-hockey curriculum. The Capitals expanded this programming into Baltimore during the 2018-19 season, introducing hockey to more than 75,000 students across more than 150 Baltimore City Public Schools. The Capitals also provided 42 Baltimore City Recreation & Parks recreation centers with a full set of street hockey equipment. The Capitals will focus on expanding this program to other counties and school systems in Maryland and Virginia with the goal of eventually providing access to the sport of hockey to all students.
Inside the game: In partnership with NBC Sports Washington, the Capitals will donate a suite to hockey programs and groups effecting positive change in the sport over select games during the season. NBCSW Capitals play-by-play announcer Joe Beninati and analyst Craig Laughlin will meet with the individuals to discuss multiple career paths at the NHL and in the game of hockey.
Up2Us Coaches: Through Monumental Sports & Entertainment Foundation, the Capitals have funded six hockey and skating Up2Us coaches at Fort Dupont. The funding will support two coaches at Fort Dupont during the 20-21 season through Up2Us Sports, a nonprofit that engages, trains and supports sports coaches to serve as mentors and role models to youth in underserved communities across America.
Diversity in Hockey Committee: The Capitals will work with community and organization leaders to launch a Diversity in Hockey Committee that meets on a consistent basis to address ways to eradicate racism and discuss growing the game in underserved communities. A primary focus will be on conducting outreach to local teams and combining resources to educate coaches and parents on how to appropriately handle racial incidents. The committee will include representation from youth hockey parents and coaches, the Capitals youth hockey department and the Capitals hockey operations staff.
United for Change Player Panel: Capitals alumnus Joel Ward and players Brenden Dillon, Garnet Hathaway and Braden Holtby participated in a roundtable discussion on racial equality, justice and inclusion as part of NBC Sports Washington’s ongoing ‘Race in America’ initiative. Moderated by NBCSW’s Chris Miller, the conversation explored racism, the importance of diversity in hockey and the Capitals commitment to fostering inclusivity in the game and beyond. The content will be featured as a half-hour special and as a digital video series on NBCSportsWashington.com. Complementary short-form content will also appear on NBCSW and Capitals social media channels.
Player and Staff Education: Based in Washington, D.C., the National Museum of African American History and Culture is the largest institution in the United States devoted to showcasing African American history. The Capitals will conduct an annual visit to the museum for development camp players to tour the museum each summer. In addition, the organization will schedule a visit with the 2020-21 roster for the team to learn about African American history.
Black Hockey Microsite: The Capitals launched a Black Hockey microsite with a focus on Capitals specific and league-wide initiatives. The site also highlights Black athletes who have played with the organization. In addition to highlighting specific programs and diversity initiatives, the site contains information on youth programs throughout the region and links to resource materials on black hockey.
Honoring Our History: The Capitals will devote one of their team history displays at Capital One Arena specifically to the organization’s Black history and players. In franchise history, the Capitals have been among the most diverse teams in the NHL with 11 black players playing for the team since 1974.
Monumental Impact: During select games throughout future seasons, the Capitals will dedicate in-game programming to recognizing and celebrating Black individuals who have made a positive impact in their industry.
ALL CAPS To Support Players Against Hate: In 2019, the Capitals hosted the Metro Maple Leafs, a Maryland-based youth hockey team, at a Capitals game after a player on the team faced racial taunts during his youth hockey game. Postgame the Metro Maple Leafs spent time with Capitals players in the Capitals locker room. Following the incident, the organization Players Against Hate was formed. Players Against Hate is determined to increase awareness of racism in youth sports and stop racism and name-calling by youth athletes, their teams and coaches, their families, and spectators.
In conjunction with Players Against Hate, the Capitals will launch a campaign against racism and use their platforms to amplify the Players Against Hate mission. PSAs will run during game broadcasts on NBC Sports Washington and on Capitals social media channels. In addition, Players Against Hate will develop educational materials to be used to teach players, coaches, officials, organizations and fans that hate has no place on the bench, in the game or in the stands. The Capitals will also collaborate on resources and tools to implement educational materials across local school systems, youth organization and hockey teams.
Previously Announced Initiatives
Monumental Sports & Entertainment: In June, MSE announced an initial series of initiatives focused on topics including police reform and voting. Click here to read MSE’s press release. On July 22, MSE announced a partnership with the nonprofit When We All Vote. The Capitals joined the Washington Wizards and Washington Mystics in launching team specific voter registration portals. Capitals fans can register to vote at www.whenweallvote.org/Capitals. Click here to read more.