Will the Washington Capitals Visit the White House After Stanley Cup Triumph?

Having been rebuffed by NFL and NBA stars, President Donald Trump could soon find himself shunned by their NHL counterparts, too.

Earlier this week, Washington Capitals winger Devante Smith-Pelly suggested he would not visit the White House should the team be invited.

GettyImages-969619916 Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals hoists the Stanley Cup after his team defeats the Vegas Golden Knights 4-3 in Game 5 of the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Las Vegas's T-Mobile Arena, on June 7. Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

“The things that he spews are straight-up racist and sexist,” he said, as reported by Michael Traikos of Canadian newspaper The National Post.

“Some of the things he’s said are pretty gross […] It hasn’t come up here, but I think I already have my mind made up.”

Smith-Pelly’s comments came when the Capitals were 3-1 up against the Vegas Golden Knights. Washington has since clinched the series, winning Game 5 4-3 to claim the first Stanley Cup in its history.

As such, the team is expected to receive an invitation to make the short trip over to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Whether they’ll attend remains to be seen; they are yet to publicly comment on the matter.

Speaking after Game 5, Ted Leonsis, the franchise owner, promised the championship parade would be considerably bigger than expected, but remain tight-lipped over the prospect of a potential presidential visit.

"I think it's going to be much bigger than everyone is expecting," Leonsis was quoted as saying by ESPN. "We want to be able to say thank you to people in Virginia and Maryland and Washington, D.C. My goal is to create something that elevates and unites all of the people in our community, so people think happy thoughts about Washington, D.C."

Leonsis hosted a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election and vehemently criticized Trump’s immigration stance. However, it is worth remembering that the Pittsburgh Penguin visited the White House last year, even though co-owner Ron Burkle had raised millions for the Clintons.

While the NHL does not enjoy the same profile of the NFL and the NBA, the impact of a snub from the Capitals would reverberate well beyond the hockey world for at least two reasons. 

First and foremost, the Capitals are based just a mile from the White House and are the first team to bring a major title back to Washington for the first time since 1992. Second, the NHL is still an almost totally white league, which has so far escaped the criticism Trump has aimed at the more diverse NFL and at the NBA.

Presidential visits by championship-winning teams have become a major source of debate since Trump was elected.

Earlier this week, LeBron James and Stephen Curry claimed that regardless of who wins the NBA title, neither the Cleveland Cavaliers nor the Golden State Warriors would accept an invitation to visit the White House.

"I know no matter who wins this series, no one wants an invite anyway,” James told reporters on Tuesday. “It won't be Cleveland or Golden State going.”

James’s comments came only a few days after Trump rescinded the invitation for Super Bowl LII winners Philadelphia Eagles after learning that many of the players did not plan to attend.

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