Earlier this month, Divyne Apollon II, a 13 year old member of the Maryland-based Metro Maple Leafs youth hockey team, faced racial taunts during a game against a team from Pennsylvania.
The taunts got so bad that at the completion of the game, Apollon's teammates had had enough and decided they weren't going to sit back and let this happen to a member of their squad. They began yelling at the other team and eventually, a fight broke out.
Sometimes, terrible circumstances can turn into something positive. For John Carlson, Devante Smith-Pelly and the rest of the Capitals, that's exactly what they're hoping happens in this instance.
Upon hearing about the story of Apollon and his team, Carlson and Smith-Pelly felt compelled to do something. They decided they wanted to invite the entire team to the St. Louis Blues game on January 14th and meet with the group afterwards.
"It's terrible first off, I think you feel for Divyne and what he has to go through and as a hockey player I think we all stand up for each other," Carlson said. "I just think it's a good thing to do to show him we're all with him."
The pair recorded a video message inviting the team to the game and on Tuesday night their coach showed them the message. The team's reaction to the video is a must-watch:
Video: Message for the Metro Maple Leafs
For Smith-Pelly, this story hits close to home. He recalls facing the same hate growing up.
"For me to meet him [Divyne] and look him in the face as someone who's gone through it and can talk to him and share my experience is important to me," he said. "It's a pretty gross thing to be happening."
As for a piece of advice Smith-Pelly has for Apollon?
"Keep playing and keep standing up for yourself."
If you haven't read Apollon and the Maple Leafs' story by now, we highly recommend you do so by clicking here.