Quenneville on racist comments: 'It can't happen'

From a public relations perspective, it has been a strange few days for the Blackhawks.

On the one hand, high-level team officials and four players took time out of their busy lives to attend the wake of Chicago police commander Paul Bauer on Friday.

The next night, four of their fans were ejected from the United Center after chanting “basketball, basketball, basketball” at Washington's Devante Smith-Pelly during the Hawks' 7-1 victory.

The news that Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, CEO John McDonough and others attended Bauer's wake drew little attention. Pat Foley mentioned it on the broadcast, and Chris Boden briefly touched on it on his pregame show on WGN 720-AM.

Meanwhile, the fan incident drew national attention and widespread criticism in newspapers, on television and across social media. With the Hawks off Sunday, it remained a hot topic before Monday's game against Los Angeles, with everyone condemning the fans' actions.

“Totally unacceptable in our game, in any sport and in society,” said coach Joel Quenneville. “We have to learn from something like that. It can't happen.”

Quenneville called Washington coach Barry Trotz on Sunday to apologize and added this during his pregame news conference Monday: “Devante, we're sorry about what happened, and let's learn from it.”

The fans, who directed the chants at Smith-Pelly while he was in the penalty box in the third period, were swiftly removed from the arena. Monday, the Hawks said they contacted the individuals and let them know “they are no longer welcome at our home games. Racist comments and other inappropriate behavior are not tolerated by the Chicago Blackhawks.”

The Hawks have one black player, 22-year-old Anthony Duclair, and he has been subject to racial taunts in the past.

“Obviously unacceptable. Not really shocked,” said Duclair, who came to the Hawks in a trade on Jan. 10. “It happens so often — not only in hockey, not only in sports — but in society as a whole. It's just very disappointing.”

Duclair understands that hockey is mostly “a white sport” but that doesn't make what happened any easier on him or the roughly 30 other black players in the NHL.

“You just want to compete, and do what you love every day,” Duclair said. “(You) know there's some ignorant people in this world. … I'm glad it was caught on camera and that (Smith-Pelly) actually spoke out. …

“These four people think a certain way. And it's not just those four people — it's a lot more. There's a lot more racism than you guys think.”

The incident was condemned by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, the Capitals organization and Smith-Pelly on Sunday. The Hawks expressed the same in a release send shortly after Saturday's game.

As for the support at Bauer's wake, the team did not try to draw attention to itself and preferred to keep things quiet.

Bauer, who was a huge Blackhawks fan, was murdered Tuesday near the Thompson Center in the Loop. The Hawks hung a jersey with Bauer's name on it and placed a placard in one of the stalls in the dressing room before Saturday's game.

Sharp said the relationship between the Hawks and the police has always been strong, and attending the wake was a natural response.

“The Chicago police does a ton for the people here, and the least we can do is go and pay our respects,” Sharp said. “To hang out for a couple minutes with the family and provide any kind of relief was our goal. But we were there for the support of the family and the police department, and not for any kind of attention.”

The Chicago Police Department declined to comment, although Foley said on the air that a couple of officers told him the department was extremely grateful for the team's presence.

“We knew he was a big Blackhawks fan and he helped a lot with the parade rallies after we won those Stanley Cups,” Kane said. “(We) thought it would be a good idea to pay our respects and give our condolences during a tough time for the family.”

This difficult time for the Hawks — off the ice — will pass, and the team hopes it won't be repeated.

Said Duclair: “Everyone's equal. Everyone should love each other.”

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