Congratulations Joel Ward, and the Washington Capitals

For seven straight games, Washington Capitals fans have witnessed a nail biting, edge-of-your-seat, roller coaster ride, as the home team went toe-to-toe with the Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins.

No one thought, but  perhaps a few had hoped, that the Capitals would play this well and go this far in a playoff series, this year.

With the ups and downs of the regular season, player injuries, lackluster performances, the firing of the 'beloved' coach Bruce Brudreau - no one was exactly sure if the Capitals would compete well at all, let alone get to the playoffs.

But get to the playoffs they did.
Players often say, "the real season begins with the Playoffs."   Interestingly enough, the Capitals proved that mantra to be true.

And so we saw this back-and-forth, win-lose, thrice over-time laden spectacle of hockey from the city's Washington Capitals, the likes of which fans hadn't been seen in a long time. (Thankfully perhaps to coach Dale Hunter who was hired to replace Bruce Brudreau).
Whatever 'magic' Hunter used, whatever 'spell' Hunter placed on the Washington Capitals, that team showed up and showed out, and in the final game of the series, Game 7, they defeated last year's Stanley Cup toting Boston Bruins - in their house, mind you, showing hockey fans (of many demographics) what a hungry playoff team should play like.  
Did I mention we haven't had this in Washington sports in quite some time? 
It's been a dry spell.  A dismal period, if you will.  And then, all of a sudden, it's like having passion return in a relationship that was passion-less for the last 20 years - leaving one to wonder if they'll ever get their groove back.
The Capitals got their groove back in the waning minutes of yet another thrilling overtime exposé‎.
Capitals forward Joel Ward's shot whizzed by the Bruins' goaltender, Tim Thomas, with less than three minutes to go and sealed a 2-1 victory for the Caps, propelling them to the second round of the NHL semifinals.  (Watch out New York Rangers).
Caps fans are ecstatic.  Pandemonium filled the stadium in Boston.  Fans, rocking the red, are finally in hockey heaven.
Oh, but wait. 

Who is Joel Ward, you ask?  His name, hardly mentioned at all in the complexion (no pun intended) of the Washington Capitals this season.  Listed last (at the time this article was published) on the Washington Capitals' team roster of forwards. Yet, this unsung hero, having played only four years in the NHL, makes perhaps 'the' most important play of the series.  And that should be celebrated.

And it was celebrated.  And it wasn't.  (SMH).

As you read in the above link, Bruins fans made it known they weren't happy losing to Washington; nor were they happy with Ward scoring the winning goal.

Hey, Bruins fans.  You lost.  It doesn't matter who scored the winning goal on your ass.  You're still defeated! Accept your loss and don't be such sore #LOSERs!

Sorry about that.   After reading those tweets, I just have to point out the facts.

Facts like African Americans have been successful in hockey for years.   Take Neal Henderson, who we caught up with at the White House in 2010 where the Chicago Blackhawks (yes, more Black for ya) were being honored by the first Black U.S. president, Barack Obama (who probably won't call Ward to 'console' him after experiencing the horrid online assault of racial tirades, like he did when Georgetown University student, Sandra Fluke, was called you-know-what by Rush Limbaugh earlier this year ), and the first the Black U.S. First Lady, Michelle Obama.

Henderson, who played in the 1930s and now heads the Fort DuPont Ice Hockey complex in DC, informed me that Washington, D.C. was the first place, and team, to have a minority player in the NHL.

The old Washington Lions team of the 1950s featured Art Dorrington.

Notwithingstanding Donald Breshar, and of course Joel Ward, the Washington Capitals have had at least five African American players on its team.

Side bar: The book, Black Ice, depicts the history of African American hockey players on the ice.
So, I say all that to say this.  I salute Joel Ward, for his accomplishments in helping the Washington Capitals advance, and for also advancing the cause of equality (and respect) in professional sports.

Also To Joel Ward (remember that name):  Continue to be proud of your accomplishment (as I know you have been), and take your rightful place in the history of Black hockey players like those before you. As you join the list African American athletes like Jackie Robinson and others, who like you persevered against the ill treatment of their time; continue rising above the evil of those with less human intelligence than they claim to have.

You are the better man, and your place in the game of hockey is bigger than you know.