In the span of two weeks, Washington Capitals winger Joel Ward has gone from hero to goat. He's been attacked with racial slurs for doing both.
In Game 7 against the Boston Bruins in an overtime thriller Joel Ward scored the game winning goal to send the Caps to a second-round series against the New York Rangers. Boston fans went right to Twitter with their profound creativity, spewing racial profanity frequently calling Ward the "N-word" as well as using other racial slurs.
And then came Monday night.
Ward took a high-sticking penalty late in the game that led to the Rangers scoring the game-tying goal with 6.6 seconds left in regulation. The game headed to overtime and the Rangers, still on the power play from Ward's penalty, tacked on the finishing touch with a goal to give them a 3-2 series lead heading back to Washington.
And then came more racial hate toward the Caps' winger via Twitter. Hundreds of racial tweets regarding Ward came flowing in.
But, as bad as these tweets are, they didn't bother Ward. “I think it is just kids… It has no effect on me whatsoever. I’ve been playing this game long enough and I’ve not had any encounters of that nature,” Ward told the USA TODAY.
Ward acknowledged his mistake and took responsibility for the loss. Ward was praised for class from reporters for waiting in the locker room after the game and fielding every question they asked of him.
Caps owner Ted Leonsis did not brush off such hate as Ward did. “There should be zero tolerance for this kind of hate mongering… Their messages should now stay glued into the algorithms to place a forever warning and a mark upon these people and their actions.
"They shouldn’t be able to escape their keystrokes. Shame on these folks who decided to take to their keyboards and show their ignorance and their racism and hate,” Leonsis said.
While Caps "fans" don't appear to understand the concept of a team game, the rest of the Capitals clearly do. Captain Alex Ovechkin told the Washington Post “You can’t say it was his fault,” he said. “We all lost the game. We win as a group and lose as a group.”
The Caps head back to home ice for game six where they will attempt to stay alive and get into the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since the 1997-1998 season, when they lost to the Detroit Red Wings.