An unfortunate reality of any major American sports team claiming their league’s title is the question they are sure to face after.
“Are you going to visit the White House?”
It’s a time-honoured tradition that the American winners of the major North American championships visit the president at the White House to celebrate their victory.
But that's changed during Donald Trump's tenure. In the NBA, the Golden State Warriors were the first team to turn down the president’s invitation (but not before he reneged on it first, ultimately winning the game of take-backsies), and won’t go this offseason either after repeating as champs.
Trump also called off the Philadelphia Eagles’ scheduled visit when it appeared that roughly 10 members of the 52-man squad would be making the trip.
The NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins took the road of less controversy (and backbone), choosing to visit the White House not long after Trump had suggested NFL players be “fired” for choosing to peacefully kneel while the national anthem played.
So when the Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup this past June, the prospect of a Trump visit was on many observers’ minds.
While Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin has publicly said he “can’t wait to go," it remains to be seen if the rest of the team will follow suit.
Forward Devante Smith-Pelly announced shortly after the Cup win that he wouldn’t be going, calling Trump’s words sexist and racist. Smith-Pelly is one of the NHL’s few black players.
Now, Campbell River native and fellow Capitals forward Brett Connolly has followed suit, telling media in Toronto that he will be skipping the event, if it happens. “Everyone is entitled to their opinion,” said Connolly. "I think there’ll be a few guys not going, too. Like I said, it has nothing to do with politics. It’s about what’s right and wrong. And we’ll leave it at that.”
In June, Trump said that he expects the Capitals to come to the White House: “I think we’ll have the Caps. We’ll see. You know, my attitude is if they want to be here on the greatest place on Earth, I’m here. If they don’t want to be here, I don’t want them.”
It’s quite rare to see NHL players go against the grain and speak their minds, but we’re slowly starting to see more of it in the age of social media.
And Connolly, as the second Capitals player to say he won’t visit (and the only white one so far), is showing some bravery. Campbell River residents should be proud; one of their own has shown a willingness to take a stand against misogyny and racism.
We might never see an NHL team outright refuse to go while Trump's in office, but players like Smith-Pelly and Connolly have shown that not everyone in the league is completely spineless.
Follow @ncaddell on TwitterMore