The Capitals said a group of Blackhawk fans directed racial taunts Saturday toward forward Devante Smith-Pelly in the penalty box in the third period as he served a fighting major.
A Capitals spokesman said the group of four yelled ''basketball, basketball, basketball'' toward Smith-Pelly, who is black. The Blackhawks confirmed in a statement the fans were ''immediately removed.''
Smith-Pelly was not available for comment, but coach Barry Trotz said the player was ''a little upset,'' even though Trotz hadn't yet talked to him in detail.
''There's absolutely no place in the game of hockey or our country for racism,'' Trotz said. ''I think it's disgusting.''
The NHL released a statement Sunday condemning the fans and backing the decision to eject them.
"Last night in Chicago, individuals directed racial taunts and abuse at Washington Capitals player Devante Smith-Pelly," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. “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 League will take steps to have our clubs remind all stakeholders that they are entitled to enjoy a positive environment - free from unacceptable, inappropriate, disruptive, inconsiderate or unruly behaviors or actions and may not engage in conduct deemed detrimental to that experience."