WASHINGTON – The National Hockey League is planning to stop selling team hats known as "sniper caps" because of the deadly shootings in the Washington area.
In hockey lingo, a "sniper" refers to a team's top scorer. But with a real-life killer sniper on the loose around Washington, one item in the NHL's official online store was causing some people to gasp Thursday.
The Web site listed for sale a Washington Capitals "Navy Sniper Fitted Cap." In fact, there was one sniper cap or another for each of the 30 teams in the league. The Pittsburgh Penguins had a "Black Sniper Fitted Cap." The Colorado Avalanche had one in blue. Fans of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks could buy a purple version of the sniper fitted cap.
"Certainly that phrase has a little bit different connotation in our market," said Capitals spokesman Kurt Kehl, who was alerted to the presence of the sniper caps on the Web site by The Associated Press. After speaking with NHL representatives, Kehl explained the real meaning of the caps' name.
"Apparently it was meant to play on the phraseology of a very good player in the NHL being referred to as a 'sniper' or a 'sharpshooter.' Every team has their sniper," Kehl said. "That's how they came up with this phrase for this line of hats."
"The term is part of the hockey vernacular," NHL spokesman Brian Walker said Thursday. "Fans and media use it to refer to a top goal-scorer. That being said, it's been pulled from the Capitals' team store, and is in the process of being pulled from the other 29 NHL teams' stores."
Since Oct. 2, a sniper has killed nine people and wounded two others in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia. The killer has eluded a massive manhunt.
Several people on the streets of downtown Washington who were shown the Web page with the sniper hat were shocked.
"For right now it's kind of horrible and disrespecting the people who lost their lives, and I hope that they do change it," said Elnur Veliev.
"I guess it's probably a good idea to take it off, because right away I think of the sniper guy going around shooting," said Richard Nishimura, who described himself as a hockey fan.