BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman says the league condemns the behavior of four male fans chanting a racial taunt against a black player, and backs the Chicago Blackhawks for ejecting the offenders.
Bettman says no one "should ever have to endure such abuse at one of our games."
The NHL released Bettman's statement Sunday morning, a day after Washington Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly was taunted by fans while he served a major penalty for fighting.
The fans were shouting "basketball, basketball, basketball," during the Blackhawks' 7-1 win. An off-ice official sitting next to Smith-Pelly notified building security, and the fans were ejected.
Bettman says the NHL plans to remind all stakeholders that "they are entitled to enjoy a positive environment, free from unacceptable, inappropriate, disruptive, inconsiderate or unruly behaviors or actions and may not engage in conduct deemed detrimental to that experience."
The Blackhawks issued a statement apologizing to Smith-Pelly and the Capitals following the game, and said they "are committed to providing an inclusive environment."
Smith-Pelly was not available for comment following the game.
He will have the opportunity to address what happened after the Capitals arrived in Buffalo on Sunday, a day before they play the Sabres. The team is scheduled to have an afternoon practice.
After the game, Coach Barry Trotz said the player was "a little upset."
"There's absolutely no place in the game of hockey or our country for racism," Trotz said. "I think it's disgusting."
The 25-year-old Smith-Pelly is in his first season with the Capitals. He also has played for Anaheim, Montreal and New Jersey.
AP freelance reporter Matt Carlson in Chicago contributed to this report.