WASHINGTON -- More than $23,000 has been raised for a Devante Smith-Pelly charity of choice -- an ice rink for the oldest minority hockey program in North America -- one week after the Washington Capitals forward was subjected to racial taunts by four Chicago Blackhawks fans at United Center.
The campaign to support Smith-Pelly was spurred by a Chicago Tribune reader, and columnist Steve Rosenbloom subsequently suggested fans contribute to a charity of Smith-Pelly's choosing.
Smith-Pelly asked that donations be made to the Fort Dupont Ice Arena, the only public indoor ice arena in Washington and home of the Fort Dupont Cannons, who are part of the NHL Hockey Is For Everyone initiative.
"I'm sure those kids saw the story, and I'm sure maybe those kids have gone through something like that," Smith-Pelly said. "For them to see that not everyone thinks that way, and for them to see that people are willing to help them, I just wanted to make sure that they were the ones that got that donation."
The Capitals have a long relationship with Fort Dupont. Prior to their game against the Buffalo Sabres at Capital One Arena on Saturday, five Fort Dupont coaches will participate in a ceremonial face-off as part of the Capitals Hockey Is For Everyone, Black History in Hockey theme night.
Earlier this month, Smith-Pelly and teammates Madison Bowey and Brooks Orpik hosted the Cannons at the Capitals practice rink in Arlington, Virginia. The Cannons program serves to "teach young people discipline, self-esteem and a sense of purpose and to offer an incentive to excel academically."
The three Capitals presented the Cannons with a $22,000 check from the MSE Foundation, which supports charitable efforts by the Capitals and was made possible by a grant from the Garth Brooks Teammates for Kids Foundation.
The recent donations from Chicago fans will help the non-profit Fort Dupont Ice Arena, built in 1996, continue to provide opportunities and equipment for the Cannons, other youth hockey players in Washington, and the Our Kids on Ice program, whose alumni include 2018 U.S. Olympic short-track speedskater Maame Boney.
"That's a lot of money," Smith-Pelly said. "That's going to change some people's lives over there."
Smith-Pelly was in the penalty box serving a five-minute major for fighting in the third period of the Capitals' 7-1 loss to the Blackhawks on Feb. 17 when the incident occurred. Four fans were ejected by arena security and have been banned from future Blackhawks home games.
"I'm happy that people were willing to do that, and it is some good to come out of something that was pretty bad," Smith-Pelly said.