Photo via the Caps website
Joel Ward wore #29 his first three seasons in the NHL. After breaking out for seven goals and thirteen points during Nashville’s deep playoff run in 2011, Ward signed a four-year, $12-million contract with the Washington Capitals. With great contracts must also come great responsibility, so Ward picked a commensurate jersey number.
Ward chose to wear #42 in honor of Jackie Robinson — the first black Major League Baseball player. Since then, Ward’s been nothing but class, a leader of the African American community for the region and for a sport that badly needs one. When confronted with racist tweets after his Game 7 game-winner against Boston last year, Joel showed poise and maturity.
Jackie Robinson would have turned 94-years-old on Thursday if he were still alive. Ward honored his trailblazing hero the best way he could: by scoring a goal.
Ward’s family emigrated from Barbados to Ontario. He grew up in North York, near Toronto, so naturally he had a bunch of family and friends at Air Canada Centre — most notably his mother and father. During a first intermission interview with Craig Laughlin, Ward admitted that it was on his mind. “It’s always hard [to play in front of family],” Ward said. “I have a lot of pressure going on.”
Regardless of pressure, Ward has been revitalized under new head coach Adam Oates this season. He has four goals and six points in seven games this year, an improvement from six goals and 17 points in 73 games last season. Still, at some point Ward’s 30.8 shooting percentage is going to drop, and he’ll probably stop being the team’s second leading scorer.
For now, the hot start belongs to the right guy. Joel Ward deserves his success, and his big goal on Thursday holds extra poignancy because of the man his jersey honors.
— Joel Ward (@JRandalWard42) January 31, 2013