Brett Connolly ‘respectfully declines’ White House visit, but many Capitals will go
Washington Capitals forward Brett Connolly, who told Canadian media last August that he wouldn’t want to visit the White House if his Stanley Cup-winning team were invited, stood by that decision when asked after Tuesday night’s game.
News broke Tuesday that the Capitals will visit the White House on Monday, March 25, to celebrate the franchise’s first championship.
“I respectfully decline. That’s all I’ll say about it,” Connolly told reporters in New Jersey, per The Athletic. “Everyone is entitled to their opinion. It’s obviously a big deal and it gains a lot of attention. I’ve been in full support of an old teammate that I’m really good friends with and who I agreed with, and a guy who will be back here, I’m sure, at the end of the year. That’s all I’ll say.”
That old teammate Connolly is referring to is Devante Smith-Pelly, a black Canadian who played an integral role in last year’s win over the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup.
Smith-Pelly said last year that he would not visit the White House because he believed some of President Trump’s rhetoric to be “racist and sexist.” Now Smith-Pelly plays for the Hershey Bears, Washington’s minor league affiliate, and he is not expected to join the team on the visit.
As of Wednesday morning, no other Capitals had said publicly they will decline the trip. Other players, including Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Jakub Vrana and Travis Boyd, have confirmed they will take part in the visit.
“Every time you get an invitation from the president and being at the White House, it’s going to be a great experience, I think,” Backstrom said Tuesday.
It’s later in the season than most previous defending Stanley Cup champs made their visit. The Capitals and the White House were having trouble finding a mutually agreeable date for the event, something almost certainly affected by the government shutdown in December and January.
Now, the visit will take place with two weeks left in the regular season, providing the team with one more celebration of last year’s success that could propel them into their title defense in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
“Even the timing of it for us is kind of nice, having it be a week or two before playoffs,” Boyd told The Times on Wednesday. “So we can almost see what we did last playoffs, and then a week or two later start trying to do the exact same thing.”