By his own admission, Washington Capitals winger Joel Ward had hit a career high on Wednesday night, scoring the Game 7 winner early in overtime to eliminate the Boston Bruins.
Moments after the puck found the back of the net, however, came a new low.
Fans then began posting racist comments on Twitter about Ward, who is black and grew up in the Toronto suburb of Scarborough.
The insults were eventually picked up and rebroadcast by the Huffington Post, local television and other media outlets, eventually reaching Ward himself when concerned friends let him know what was being said.
Ward’s agent Peter Cooney called the situation “beyond unfortunate” on Thursday, saying he couldn’t believe this was an issue.
“It’s appalling,” he said. “Where we are in North America now, it’s hard to believe we still have that prejudice. It’s disturbing. It’s really disgraceful.”
Cooney added that Ward is doing his best to ignore the comments.
“He’s put it in his back pocket so to speak,” Cooney said. “He knows he’s going to have interviews and people talking about it. He’s heard about it, but he said ‘Peter, don’t worry - that stuff never bothered me.’ ”
Capitals owner Ted Leonsis joined in on condemning the insults, writing on his blog Thursday that "what these people have said and done is unforgivable... there should be zero tolerance for this kind of hate mongering."
Both teams involved released a statement later in the day.
Capitals statement: "We are aware of some of the racial comments that were made following our overtime victory last night and are outraged by those individuals who expressed such ignorant comments. We find such comments to be totally unacceptable."
Bruins statement: "The Bruins are very disappointed by the racist comments that were made following the game last night. These classless, ignorant views are in no way a reflection of anyone associated with the Bruins organization."
Ward has been one of the feel good stories in hockey for the last several years, as the son of immigrants from Barbados took one of the most unique roads to get to the NHL. He was never drafted and played four years at the University of Prince Edward Island before making it to pro hockey.
His father, Randal, died of a stroke while watching his then 14-year-old son play hockey, leaving Ward’s mother, Cecilia, to raise three boys on her own.
Ward, now 31, signed a four-year, $12-million deal with the Capitals last summer but had a tough season with only six goals during the regular season.
Wednesday’s goal, however, was likely the biggest of his career -- and the reason Washington had wanted him all along.
Cooney, who is based in Boston and was at the game, said he doesn’t see the racist comments as reflecting the Bruins fan base.
“I think it’s a very small amount of people,” he said. “I’d like to think that anyway. With [social media]these people get to have a platform that they can put this out there, and it’s too bad. I think if they knew Joel, they would not have this attitude.
“It’s very disappointing, but it doesn’t take any of the success that Joel’s had away.”Report Typo/Error