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‘No room for hate’: Caps’ raffle winner donates $19,000 jackpot to Pittsburgh Jewish community

Capitals fans cheer outside Capital One Arena as the team hoists its Stanley Cup championship banner before the season opener Oct. 3. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

Before the Pittsburgh Penguins visited the Washington Capitals on Wednesday night, the Capitals announced that the proceeds the team collected from its 50/50 raffle would go to the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh. The organization is directing recovery efforts after the October shooting at Tree of Life synagogue that killed 11 people and injured seven more.

In all, fans purchased $38,570 worth of numbers. Half of that total was headed to Pittsburgh, and the other half, $19,285, was destined for the raffle winner.

Except the winner, a Capitals season ticket holder, declined to collect the money. He waived his right to the prize and donated it all to the Jewish Federation.

“Look, I could never write that check by myself. But it was easy. It was simple. It was the right thing to do,” said the season ticket holder, who spoke to The Washington Post on the condition of anonymity so as not to divert attention from the Pittsburgh Jewish community’s recovery. “I don’t want to distract from where the focus needs to be, which is helping those in need."

The raffle winner and his teenage son have had tickets to Capitals games for eight years and play the 50/50 drawing almost every game, he said. The contest is sponsored by the Monumental Sports & Entertainment Foundation, which normally picks a worthy cause to donate half the revenue.

But after the team announced the money from the drawing at the Pittsburgh game would go to the shooting victims, his son asked if he could spend some of his own money to purchase numbers and support the Jewish Federation.

Together, they contributed $100. The odds were so long that they had won, the season ticket holder did not bother to look at his numbers when the winner was announced during the third period. Only before he was set to throw his numbers away while leaving the stadium after the game did he check, just in case.

“Sure enough, I’d hit it,” he said.

He filled out the paperwork to claim the prize but told Capitals staff that he just wanted to donate the winnings back. The easiest way to do that, staff told him, was to waive his right to the money, so he wouldn’t have to pay taxes on the winnings and the Jewish Federation could enjoy the full $38,570. His son stood by him and agreed it was the right thing to do.

“When the shooting happened, and you’ve got a teenage son who’s curious about what in the world is going on, it’s an opportunity to talk through things,” said the season ticket holder, who is not Jewish. “We talked a lot about hate and the fact that there’s no room for hate in the world. These people were shot simply because of where they worship and the fact that they might have been helping someone else. My family feels very strongly about this.”

The raffle winner said in the time he has had season tickets, he has been able to teach his son a lot of “life lessons,” most of them owing to the Capitals' previous perennial playoff disappointments.

But he also has pointed to the way the hockey community unites after tragedies, such as the April bus crash that killed 16 members of the Humboldt Broncos junior team and injured 13 more. NHL teams banded together to raise money to pay for funerals and medical bills for the players and coaches and their families.

“I hope that others will take the opportunity to help out when they can however they can in their communities,” the season ticket holder said. “There’s nothing better than Caps-Pens hockey and the rivalry is really intense, but it’s nothing compared to tragedies like this.

“Hockey is really great at coming together, whether it was the bus accident in Canada last year or something like this. To be a small part of something like that, it’s the least we could do.”