Capitals dress web guy as backup goalie
While watching the Capitals game tonight, a 5-1 trouncing of the Ottawa Senators, I heard the announcers talking about the backup goaltender, a web site producer for the team. They even interviewed him during the intermission. With an injury to Jose Theodore, the Capitals rushed in Simeon Varlamov from the Hershey Bears. However when he was unable to arrive in time for the game, the Caps turned to their web guy. We’ll let the AP (via ESPN) fill in the details:
A 6-foot-7 Web site producer for the Washington Capitals dressed as the team’s backup goalie for Friday night’s game against the Ottawa Senators because of an injury to Jose Theodore. Brett Leonhardt, a Division III goalie in college, signed an amateur tryout contract before the game. If he had actually played, he would have tied Ben Bishop of the St. Louis Blues as the tallest goalie ever to see action in an NHL game.
Theodore suffered a hip flexor injury during the Capitals’ morning skate, and Simeon Varlamov was recalled from Hershey, the team’s AHL affiliate, to back up starter Brent Johnson. But Hershey happened to be on the road in San Antonio, and Varlamov didn’t arrive in time for the 7 p.m. faceoff.
So the Capitals received special dispensation from the league to dress three goaltenders. Leonhardt had a spot on the bench until Varlamov arrived midway through the first period. By the end of the second period, Leonhardt was back in a suit and tie and in his usual spot in the press box, preparing for his regular job of handling the camera during postgame interviews. But first, of course, everyone wanted to interview him.
NHL.com has a good story up as well, which includes quotes from the intermission interview:
Leonhardt said he was told during the morning skate that he might be filling a different function than he usually does on game nights. “Jose had a short practice,” he said during a between-periods interview during the Caps’ game telecast. “George (McPhee, the Caps’ GM), kind of came into my cubicle, tapped me on the shoulder and just told me, ‘Make sure your gear is down at Verizon and be ready to go at five.'”
…”It didn’t cross my mind,” he said of the possibility of actually facing shots in an NHL game. “Before the game, I was talking with (goaltending coach) Dave Prior, and he was telling me tendencies of the ‘D’ and communication, and I was like, ‘Dave, let’s hope we don’t have to worry about that.'”
The AP Story continues:
“Every dream come true,” Leonhardt said. “Growing up in Canada, playing since I was 4. It was just very surreal. It was a blur, went by real quick.” Although he didn’t play, Leonhardt — whose nickname is, you guessed it, “Stretch” — enjoyed the thrill of his life as he dressed in jersey No. 80 and went through the usual player’s pregame routine, including having his skates sharpened. Teammates greeted him warmly during pregame warmups as he fended off shots from superstar Alex Ovechkin and others while tending goal at the Verizon Center.
“It was a great view. Usually I’m up here with you guys in the press box,” Leonhardt said. “Mike Green started laughing his head off.” During the first half of the first period, Leonhardt sat at the end of the bench in a white baseball cap. He looked down sheepishly when shown he was shown on the huge replay screen along with the caption: “1st NHL game.” The crowd roared.
The crowd cheered again later in the period when Varlamov — also new to the big league — was shown on the screen along with the same caption. The 26-year-old Leonhardt played two years for Oswego State in New York and two years for Neumann College in Pennsylvania before graduating in 2007. He has worked for the Capitals’ Web site for about a year and has taken part in drills during practices when the team needed an extra goalie. He wore one of his college masks from Neumann during warmups.
His chances of playing Friday weren’t exactly remote. Johnson had a sore hip from a fall during Wednesday night’s victory over the Boston Bruins. Even if he had played, Leonhardt wouldn’t have received an NHL check. The special amateur contract pays nothing. “I should pay them for being able to do this,” he said.
In his post-game press conference, Coach Bruce Boudreau was asked about the situation: “Once I left the arena it was all done and I didn’t think about it until I got back and found out (Varlamov) wasn’t going to make it here, and then you start worrying about it again. To me it’s a moot point. We either have Brett, yes, or we don’t, and we have Varley, and I can’t let that consume 90 percent of my day when it’s only maybe 10 percent of the problem at this point. Now if Brent couldn’t go, then I might have been a little worried. But Brett was tossing pucks to the crowd like he knew what he was doing, so I had no fears.”
The Neumann College Knights covered one of LeonHardt’s previous stints in goal for the Caps earlier this year, including this quote from the Capitals Insider Blog (Washington Post) : “With Kolzig skipping the morning skate, Caps media staffer Brett Leonhardt, an Ontario native and former college goaltender at Neumann College, took shots in practice. The highlight of his day — and perhaps life — was a nice glove save on Ovechkin.” That WAS the highlight of this young man’s life, until tonight.
See the photos below from that appearance at a practice in February: