DSP Puck Drop 1

William Douglas has been writing The Color of Hockey blog since 2012. Douglas joined NHL.com in 2019 and writes about people of color in the sport. Today, he profiles retired NHL forward Devante Smith-Pelly, who returns to the Washington Capitals as a radio broadcast analyst during the team’s five-game road trip.

Devante Smith-Pelly said he still loved hockey shortly after he announced his retirement in December 2022, but it was “just time to love it from a different angle.”

That angle will be as a radio broadcaster for the Washington Capitals, who Smith-Pelly became a pivotal and iconic figure with during their drive to the Stanley Cup championship in 2018.

The 31-year-old Scarborough, Ontario, native makes his Washington radio debut with play-by-play announcer John Walton when the Capitals face the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center on Monday (10:30 p.m. ET; MNMT2, MNMT, NBCSCA).

He’ll also conduct interview for Washington’s digital channels and assist with game-day coverage on Monumental Sports Network when the Capitals play at the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday (10:30 p.m. ET; MNMT2, MNMT, BSW, SN, TVAS), the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday (10 p.m. ET; MNMT, BSW), the Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday (10 p.m. ET; SCRIPPS; MNMT) and Arizona Coyotes on Dec. 4 (9 p.m. ET; SCRIPPS, MNMT).

“I’m extremely excited, I knew right away that I wanted to try it out and I’m grateful for the chance,” Smith-Pelly said Friday shortly after he landed in San Francisco en route to San Jose. “John Walton has been great, we’ve talked a lot over the last couple of weeks on how he prepares … He’s the expert, and I’m just going to kind of read off him.”

Walton said he’s thrilled to share a booth with Smith-Pelly.

“He’s a Stanley Cup champion," Walton said, "and the fans all love what he did on the ice and now he’s got an opportunity, in beginning his broadcast career, to be able to do something off the ice. He’s such a recognizable figure in this community. I think it’s a great fit.”

Devante Smith-Pelly 2018 WSH hoisting cup

Smith-Pelly will be covering a Capitals team that’s vastly different from the one that defeated the first-year Golden Knights in five games on the 2018 Stanley Cup Final for Washington’s first championship.

Only five players remain from that team -- forwards Alex Ovechkin, Tom Wilson and T.J. Oshie, center Evgeny Kuznetsov and defenseman John Carlson. Nicklas Backstrom was also on that team, but the 35-year-old center announced on Nov. 1 that he’s taking time away from hockey because of what he called “my ongoing injury situation.” He had resurfacing surgery on his left hip in June 2022.

“The first time talking to somebody, interviewing them, will be a little funny, I wouldn’t say awkward, but hilarious,” Smith-Pelly said. “I think as the trip goes on, it’ll become more of the norm.” 

Smith-Pelly was loved by his Capitals teammates and revered by fans for his heroics in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, where he rose from a bottom-six forward to a key contributor to Washington’s championship.

He scored seven goals in 24 playoff games, matching his total in 75 regular-season games, including one each in Games 3, 4 and 5 of the Stanley Cup Final.

The last goal was by far the biggest, when Smith-Pelly scored on a diving shot on Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury at 9:52 of the third period of Game 5 to tie it 3-3 and set the stage for Lars Eller’s Cup-winning goal 2:31 later.

Devante Smith-Pelly 2018 WSH in action goal celebration cup final

Smith-Pelly’s 2018 postseason heroics had an impact in Washington, D.C.’s Black community, which has some familiarity with hockey from the Capitals having 11 Black players since joining the NHL in 1974-75 and from the presence of the presence of the Fort Dupont Ice Hockey Club, North America’s oldest minority-oriented youth hockey program that helped produce a generation of Black fans and player in the area.

Smith-Pelly’s white helmet is part of the Capitals’ permanent exhibit honoring their Black players at Capital One Arena. He received a loud ovation when he performed the ceremonial puck drop before the Capitals’ Black History Night game against the New York Rangers on Feb. 25.

“I will say this to the end of time: Without 'DSP,' there would be no Stanley Cup,” said Alexandria Briggs-Blake, a member of the Capitals Black Hockey Committee. “He played at another level. It’ll be great to have his voice with John Walton’s. It will be also be one of those things that our youth will look at it as another avenue to take. They can say, ‘I may not play the sport at the level that he did, but I can be an analyst, I can announce. I can be like Devante Smith-Pelly and be an analyst.’”

Selected by the Anaheim Ducks in the second round (No. 42) of the 2010 NHL Draft, Smith-Pelly had 101 points (44 goals, 57 assists) in 395 League games with the Ducks, Montreal Canadiens, New Jersey Devils and Capitals from 2011-19 and 16 points (13 goals, three assists) in 51 playoff games.

Smith-Pelly said he wasn’t sure what he was going to do after he announced his retirement on Instagram, but indicated he wanted to stay involved in hockey.

He was contacted by TSN, which invited to do some analysis on NHL games. That led to him doing work for the network during the 2023 IIHF World Championship.

“So now I’m watching two games in the morning, two games in the afternoon,” Smith-Pelly said of the world championship. “It was tough at first because I’m an expert at NHL hockey, so covering Austria, Czechia and teams like that was a lot tougher than covering the Maple Leafs and Canadiens for my first time. 

"I really, really enjoyed it. That’s when I realized I want to do a lot more of this.”

And now, with microphone in hand, he’s taking his first hockey road trip since his playing days.

“Yeah, I’m looking forward to seeing how my body responds because I know it’s tough on the body when you’re playing,” he said. “I haven’t really been doing much traveling, kind of staying at home, but looking forward to seeing how I feel on this road trip.”

NHL.com staff writer Tom Gulitti contributed to this report