Most Cap­i­tals open to pos­si­ble White House visit

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY ANDY KOSTKA

Dur­ing the Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals’ break­down day on Wed­nes­day, most play­ers ex­pressed an open­ness to­ward the prospect of a White House visit, should Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump in­vite the team.

Six days after win­ning their first Stan­ley Cup Fi­nal in team his­tory, play­ers still de­lib­er­ated over the prospect, though Trump has yet to of­fi­cially ex­tend an in­vi­ta­tion to the Cap­i­tals. Play­ers were agree­able to­ward the op­por­tu­nity, ex­cept right winger Devante Smith-Pelly, who had pre­vi­ously im­plied he would not want to go.

“I would like to go there,” cen­ter Nick­las Back­strom said. “I think the build­ing is pretty cool and ev­ery­thing. I’m not go­ing to get into this dis­cus­sion that a lot of the other ath­letes have been talk­ing about. I think the build­ing is pretty cool and I think it’s an honor if the Pres­i­dent in­vites you.”

“Yeah, I’m look­ing for­ward,” cap­tain Alex Ovechkin said. “I can’t wait. I never been there. I want to take pic­tures around it. It will be fun.”

Smith-Pelly, who is black, told Canada’s Post­media on June 6 that “the things that [Trump] spews are straight-up racist and sex­ist. … I’m not too into pol­i­tics, so I don’t know all his other views, but his rhetoric I def­i­nitely don’t agree with. It hasn’t come up here, but I think I al­ready have my mind made up.”

Asked Wed­nes­day about his view­point, the 25-year-old Cana­dian said it hasn’t changed.

“I haven’t thought about it more than that,” Smith-Pelly said. “I stand by what I said and that’s re­ally all there is to it.”

Smith-Pelly doesn’t think his stance will cause fric­tion among play­ers who are re­cep­tive to a visit.

“Every­one, they can do what­ever they want, you know what I mean?” Smith-Pelly said. “When I said what I said no one in the room said, ‘Hey, well maybe you should do this or maybe you should do that.’ Every­one can do what­ever they want. I’ll still love Ovi if he goes. I’ll still love all the other guys if they go.”

While play­ers cel­e­brated at Cafe Mi­lano in Ge­orge­town on June 9, Philip Pritchard, the han­dler of the Stan­ley Cup, tweeted a photo of Ovechkin and the Cup, pos­ing with Ivanka Trump and her hus­band, Jared Kush­ner.

The 2017 WNBA cham­pi­ons Min­nesota Lynx didn’t re­ceive an in­vi­ta­tion, so last month the squad vis­ited Payne El­e­men­tary School in South­east D.C. in­stead, giv­ing shoes to kids. Trump with­drew an in­vi­ta­tion to the Philadel­phia Ea­gles over na­tional an­them protests. Crit­i­cism from stars on the Golden State War­riors, the 2017 and 2018 NBA cham­pi­ons, caused Trump to un­in­vite the team in 2017 and not reach out to War­riors this year.

Other play­ers, such as right winger Brett Con­nolly, de­clined to com­ment on the sub­ject, while left winger Jakub Vrana, in his first full year with the Cap­i­tals, is leav­ing the choice to more veteran play­ers.

“Hon­estly, there’s other guys who de­cide this,” the 22-year-old Czech said. “I was just kind of rolling with the group. Wher­ever we go, we go, I go.”

Concrete plans haven’t been formed re­gard­ing a visit, and goal­keeper Braden Holtby said a group de­ci­sion will be made after a dis­cus­sion. But the pre­dom­i­nant sen­ti­ment points to­ward ac­cept­ing an in­vi­ta­tion.

“I think for sure we would go,” cen­ter Jay Bea­gle said. “I don’t know why we wouldn’t. If the Pres­i­dent in­vites you to the White House, you go, right? That’s the way I look at it. … Ob­vi­ously, it’ll be up to the team, but I’ll go. I’m in.”

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