The Washington Capitals honored a youth hockey team for standing up against alleged racism on the ice.
Divyne Apollon II, 13, was welcomed along with his team at Monday at Capital One Arena. Apollon and his Metro Maple Leafs teammates, based out of Anne Arundel County, were special guests at the game against the St. Louis Blues.
"I thought it was pretty cool, because I realize more people appreciate me than I thought," Apollon said.
Apollon, the only African-American player on his team, felt unappreciated when the Maple Leafs played the Old York Raiders, a youth hockey team from Pennsylvania.
He says opposing players during a recent tournament called him a racial slur and taunted him with monkey noises.
"The fact that it’s still something that still exists even though we’re only like 13-year-old kids," Apollon told News4. "I didn't think it was cool."
Neither did his teammates.
"It was horrible," Maple Leafs teammate Alex Auchincloss said. "It shouldn’t be happening on the ice or anywhere."
The Metro Maple Leafs showed support Apollon support by making anti-racism T-shirts.
Capitals stars John Carlson and Devante Smith-Pelly heard about what happened and invited the team.
"That’s one thing that kind of stood out was how his teammates had his back and 13-year-old kids fighting for their friend," Smith-Pelly said.
"It was kind of inspiring how they all stuck together and that’s great for kids especially," Carlson said.
The Maple Leafs players were especially thrilled to meet their favorite hockey players on the heels of the Capitals' Stanley Cup victory over the summer.
Apollon was especially excited to meet his favorite player, Alex Ovechkin. The Caps' captain even gave Apollon a hockey stick and a signature.
When asked about the other team involved in the racist incident, Apollon broke out in a smile.
"Well, I guess they're pretty angry at home right now because they didn't get to meet Ovi because of their actions," Apollon said, drawing laughs from his teammates.
News4 reached out to the Old York Raiders and no one returned the calls.
However, a coach sent a written statement to the Washington Post:
"We did speak to the team about the accusations. The Raiders organization nor its coaching staff does not participate in, support or condone intolerance or unsportsmanlike actions in any forms," said the statement, attributed to Justin Adamski of the Old York Raiders.