2018 Stanley Cup Hero Devante Smith-Pelly To Join Capitals For Black History Night on February 25: “I Think it’s Only Right to Help the Next Generation of Players…Be A Good Influence”

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The Washington Capitals will host Black History Night on February 25 at Capital One Arena, and among those in attendance will be a man whose name is etched in the franchise’s and NHL history forever.

Devante Smith-Pelly, who played a key role in the Capitals’ 2018 run to the first-ever Stanley Cup championship in franchise history, will be one of the team’s special guests later this month, and will partake in a ceremonial puck drop prior to the team’s game against the New York Rangers.

The former 2010 second-round pick of the Anaheim Ducks played a total of 395 NHL games, as well as a season in the Kontinental Hockey League, totaling 44 Goals and 101 Points with the Ducks, Montreal Canadiens, New Jersey Devils, and Capitals, with whom he concluded his NHL tenure in 2019.

Signed as a free agent by the Caps to a one-year deal in the summer of 2017, Smith-Pelly, who trained as a youth player under former Capitals forward and the first-ever black player selected in an NHL Entry Draft (and the first player in the league since Willie O’Ree broke the color barrier over a decade prior) Mike Marson, went on to play a total of 129 games in the District; this ties the Ducks as the club with whom Smith-Pelly played in the most games of his 395 NHL contests. He is best remembered for his heroic performance in Washington’s run to the 2018 Stanley Cup, during which he scored seven goals and eight points, the last of which tied the Cup-clinching Game 5 at the 9:52 mark of the third period.

In a recent sit-down with Caps Senior Writer Mike Vogel, Smith-Pelly reflected on his playing career, the Stanley Cup run, and what he hopes the future of black players in the sport of ice hockey looks like:

“When I was younger, I had no idea who he was,” he says of Marson. “We just wanted to train. That’s what we were doing, we were training. I had no idea of his whole story but as I got older and I saw him around more and I got more of an understanding, we definitely talked, and I definitely heard stories of what he had to go through. He’s obviously one of the pioneers and things like that are still happening, but he was one of the first guys to do it and help make it kind of almost a regular thing, and to make it acceptable that he could play. Without guys like him, all the guys who came before me and me, we wouldn’t be able to play the game.”

“It’s a tough question, and I don’t have all the answers,” he says of the ongoing issue of racism at all levels of hockey. “I think in hockey specifically, you’re cutting out a large amount of people just by not being inclusive. I wish I had the answer. But I think at this point it might just start with education and stuff like that when kids are young.”

Smith-Pelly, who announced his retirement at the end of 2022, also tells Vogel what impact he hopes to play in the development of young black hockey players; given his place in Stanley Cup playoff lore, it would no doubt be a voice with an impact:

“I think it’s a must,” he says. “It’s paying it forward, and like I said, without those guys, who knows how my career would have gone? I think it’s only right to help the next generation of players from not only Scarborough, but anywhere, be a good influence.

“On my way out, I got to play in [AHL] Ontario [in 2020-21] with [Quinton] Byfield and Akil Thomas, and I made it a point to kind of try and help them out, mentor them like those guys did for me. Obviously not too much, and nothing forced, but if they ever need anything – and still to this day if they need anything – they do call me and they do text me, and I kind of talk them through whatever they need. So I’m just trying to help the way I was helped.”

In his 129 games as a Washington Capital (excluding playoffs), “DSP”, as he was known, recorded a total of 24 Points (11 G, 13 A) over almost two full seasons; after re-signing to another one-year deal weeks after the team’s Stanley Cup win, Smith-Pelly struggled in his second season in the District, finishing the 2018-19 having played 54 games (to 75 the season prior). In three postseason games played in 2019, he recorded no points. While his ending with the Caps was nowhere near as brilliant as the pinnacle of his time in Red, White, and Blue, his name will forever be intertwined with the franchise’s first Cup win.

To read the entire piece, visit the Dump ‘N Chase blog HERE.

By Michael Fleetwood

More Reading on DSP:
Devante Smith-Pelly Signs With Kunlun Red Star In KHL
Devante Smith-Pelly Returns to MedStar Capitals Iceplex, Receives Rousing Ovation From Fans
Thank You DSP! A Reflective Thanks to Devante Smith-Pelly
Capitals Place Devante Smith-Pelly On Waivers
Capitals’ Devante Smith-Pelly Has His Day With The Stanley Cup

About Michael Fleetwood

Michael Fleetwood was born into a family of diehard Capitals fans and has been watching games as long as he can remember. He was born the year the Capitals went to their first Stanley Cup Final, and is a diehard Caps fan, the owner of the very FIRST Joe Beninati jersey and since then, has met Joe himself. Michael joined the NoVa Caps team in 2015, and is most proud of the growth of the NoVa Caps community in that time. An avid photographer, Michael resides in VA.
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6 Responses to 2018 Stanley Cup Hero Devante Smith-Pelly To Join Capitals For Black History Night on February 25: “I Think it’s Only Right to Help the Next Generation of Players…Be A Good Influence”

  1. DC Scappeli says:

    I will always be grateful for his contribution on the Cup run, especially that tying goal in Game 5…he should not have to pay for a drink or meal in the DMV! Same goes for Lars Eller when his days as a Cap is over

  2. Anonymous says:

    This is awesome. I always felt like he deserved a “tip of the cap” from the fans.

  3. Mark Eiben says:

    Thank you DSP, thank you.

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