The Capitals are still celebrating their first Stanley Cup, and wrestling with the question every other U.S. championship team faces these days — will they accept an invitation to visit President Donald Trump at the White House?
The Washington Post spoke to a number of Capitals players and coaches, and found the sentiment leans toward the team accepting an invitation. Defenseman Brooks Orpik, who visited the White House before as a member of the 2009 Stanley Cup champion Penguins, admits the decision is "sensitive."
"We all have our opinions on it, it’s a very sensitive issue,” Orpik told the Post. “It’s just kind of the way things are going these days. If you don’t have the belief as somebody else then automatically they think you’re wrong and they take it personally, which politics isn’t supposed to be that way. You’re allowed to have disagreement but my opinion is that you’re supposed to respect the other person’s decision.
“I know from past experiences it’s a really cool experience, I mean you go there for three or four hours. For me it’s a really cool celebration with your team celebrating a championship.”
Capitals coach Barry Trotz seemed to indicate there will be a group decision on whether to attend.
“I have my opinion on that which is part of the process of being a championship team and other people have different opinions so I respect both,” Trotz said. “I haven’t talked to the guys one way or the other. We haven’t had any official team meetings, but I respect both sides, really I do. Whatever the group decides, we will do it. I don’t know if it will be a full group, a half group, or no group, I have no idea. I think most guys have the tradition part down.”
Forward Devante Smith-Pelly is already in the "no" column. A black Canadian, Smith-Pelly told a Canadian news outlet during the Stanley Cup Final he would not attend a White House ceremony, a stance he reiterated with the Post. But he said whatever the team decide, he knows his teammates "have his back."
“I said what I said and that is what I believe,” Smith-Pelly said. “Again, I haven’t thought about it any more than that. I stand by what I said … They can do whatever they want, you know what I mean. When I said what I said, no one in the room said, ‘Hey, maybe you should do this or maybe you should do that.’ Everyone can do whatever they want. I will still love Ovi (Capitals star Alex Ovechkin) if he goes and the other guys if they go.”
Trump hasn't extended an invitation yet to the Capitals, and while such invites were once taken for granted, the entire process has become so politicized there's no guarantee they will get one. Trump disinvited the Eagles after their Super Bowl win because of blowback from unhappy players, as he did the NBA champion Warriors in 2017. And the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx did not even receive an invitation, a courtesy previously granted to league champions.