Devante Smith-Pelly had heard the "basketball" taunt before and did nothing about it.
Saturday night at the United Center, however, the Washington Capitals forward felt he had to say something when four fans chanted that word three times while Smith-Pelly -- who is black -- sat in the penalty box during the third period.
"We're at a time now where we can't brush it under the rug," Smith-Pelly told reporters after the Capitals practiced Sunday. "You've got to start calling people out and making sure other people see other people's true colors."
Four fans were immediately ejected, and the Chicago Blackhawks quickly released a statement condemning the actions.
On Sunday, the team "respectfully declined" interview requests with president and CEO John McDonough and owner Rocky Wirtz.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and the Capitals released statements Sunday, with Bettman making the league's position clear:
"Last night in Chicago, individuals directed racial taunts and abuse at Washington Capitals player Devante Smith-Pelly. The National Hockey League condemns this unacceptable and reprehensible behavior.
"The League fully supports the actions taken by the United Center and the Blackhawks to eject the offenders and would expect the same response to any similarly unacceptable behavior at any of our arenas.
"While this incident was isolated in nature, no player, coach, official or fan should ever have to endure such abuse at one of our games."
The Capitals' statement was similar, saying the team was "extremely disappointed by the intolerant behavior" and has "zero tolerance concerning any form of racism." It also praised Blackhawks officials for how they handled the situation.
Smith-Pelly was in the box serving a five-minute penalty for fighting Connor Murphy. After hearing the comments, Smith-Pelly stood to confront the fans, at least two who were seated in the front row.
"It's pretty obvious what that means. It's not really a secret," Smith-Pelly told reporters after Washington practiced Sunday. "It's disgusting.
"It's sad that in 2018 we're still talking about the same thing over and over. It's just sad that athletes like myself 30, 40 years ago were standing in the same spot saying the same thing. You'd think there'd be some sort of change or progression. We're going to keep working toward it."
The Hawks were off Sunday and will host Los Angeles on Monday.
Former Hawks forward Jeremy Roenick had this to say on Twitter: "Fans yelling racial comments to Smith-Pelly of the @Capitals. Absolutely no place for that in any sport, or in our Country … it's just wrong! Shame on those people."
The race is on:
With the Blackhawks basically out of the playoff picture, it's time to focus on who will lead the team in goals this season: Patrick Kane or Alex DeBrincat.
"We were joking around a little bit about it," Kane said after the Hawks' 7-1 victory over Washington on Saturday. "He's been hot as of late."
He sure has. DeBrincat has 8 goals in the last 11 games and finds himself tied with Kane with 22 goals. Kane has led the Hawks the last two seasons and four times in his career.
It is possible Kane or DeBrincat could be caught if they are injured or Nick Schmaltz (16), Jonathan Toews (16), Brandon Saad (15) or Artem Anisimov (15) get hot down the stretch.
The Hawks (25-26-8) have won seven games by 4 or more goals this season, beating Pittsburgh 10-1, Ottawa 8-2, Washington 7-1, Anaheim 7-3, Columbus 5-1, Winnipeg 5-1 and Detroit 5-1. They've outscored opponents 47-10 in those victories.
In the other 52 games, the Hawks have been outscored 160-122.
He said it:
"It's always nice to get a goal like that with a second left or whatever it was. Kind of kicks teams when they're down."
-- Jonathan Toews on Nick Schmaltz's first-period goal with 0.8 seconds left Saturday to give the Hawks a 3-1 lead over Washington