By Fred Harrison
Goalie Braden Holtby is the latest member of the Capitals to pull out of tomorrow’s scheduled visit to the White House in celebration of their 2018 Stanley Cup championship.
“It’s one of those things you have to think about, but for me, I have to stay true to my values. I’m going to respectfully decline the offer,” Holtby said Friday after Capitals practice.
“It’s a tough situation for everyone, to be forced into making a decision. You’re a team. You want to stick together, no matter what. I hope everyone kind of blows it away — that you don’t worry about who goes and who doesn’t. For me, it’s just a personal thing. I believe in what I believe in. In order to stick to those values, I have to do what I think is right, but that doesn’t make a difference in anyone else’s decision. We stick by every teammate and their decision.”
Holtby was the goalie for all 16 wins in the Capitals’ playoff run, leading the NHL postseason with a 2.16 goals-against average. He said other championship teams having chosen not to attend ceremonies at the White House, or not being invited, has created a climate where athletes have to make these decisions.
“Once the first team doesn’t go, it puts the onus on every other team in professional sports to make a decision, if you’re political or not. Our team is trying to take the most professional way we can. Give every player the right to choose, and stand by each one of us, regardless of what you decide,” he said.
The Capitals announced this week that while they will be at the White House on Monday, it will be a decidedly more low-key affair than previous Stanley Cup champion visits. There will be no public ceremony nor media availability, only a private meeting and tour with President Donald Trump. As Holtby said, players were given the team’s blessing to make their own calls an attending.
“I understand our players and their decisions and I respect it. They’re allowed to make their own decisions. It’s important that we support them in whatever decision that they make,” said Capitals coach Todd Reirden, who called the White House celebration “an amazing opportunity” for him and his players.
Forward Brett Connolly was another Capitals player who publicly declined the invitation, saying it was out of respect for teammate Devante Smith-Pelly, currently playing for the team’s American Hockey League affiliate. Smith-Pelly, one of two black players on last year’s Capitals, said he wouldn’t visit the White House after they won the Cup because he believed “the things that [the president] spews are straight-up racist and sexist.”
Both Holtby and Connolly are Canadian-born. John Carlson and T.J. Oshie, the two most prominent American players on the Capitals, have both said they’ll attend, as will Russian-born captain Alex Ovechkin.