An emotional welcome home for Brooks Laich at tonight’s game against the Maple Leafs. The beloved fan favorite and long-time Capitals player received a standing ovation during a break in play at the 12:09 mark.
The Capitals played a tribute video on the jumbo Tron highlighting Brooks’ tenure with the Capitals when he took the ice for the Maple Leafs.
Brooks, the Capitals newest prodigal son, was traded to the Maple Leafs on Monday and is suiting up for tonight for the second time in a Maple Leafs uniform. Laich began his NHL career with the Capitals in 2004 where he spent the last 12 years as a player. During his tenure he endured 5 head coaches, 133 goals, 191 assists, 324 points and 742 games.
Best of luck to you Brooksie, your fans and the Washington Capitals will keep our memories of you in red close to our hearts and always wish you the best.
By Stephanie Judge
— Julianne Hough (@juliannehough) March 3, 2016
“Welcome to DC. We hope you’re here for the next 15 years.”
Those were the words former Capitals General Manager George McPhee told a 20-year old Brooks Laich in February 2003, shortly after the Capitals had acquired Laich in a trade with the Ottawa Senators. A dozen years later, Laich himself departed in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs. It ended what was a phenomenal Capitals career for the former sixth-round pick: Laich ranks eighth all-time in franchise history with games played with 742, and 22nd in points with 324. Laich gave his heart every night for the Caps and was a key component on many successful teams. But Laich’s time in Washington was far more important than just on-ice play. It was about the fans and community as well. And with Laich set to return to DC tonight when the Maple Leafs come to town, it’s time to acknowledge a true class act and person.
Laich was a fan favorite to many because of his compassion and good-hearted attitude towards fans and people. He spent many hours in helping the Capitals’ community work and was always willing to sign autographs and pose for pictures. And to some, he was even more important. “Today, I feel like I lost a member of my family”, season-ticket holder Aurena Raines said after the trade, “The penalty kill won’t be the same! Brooks is a great role model and a generous man, and it stinks he’s going to a team that isn’t going to the playoffs.” Fan Ronald Bove added, “Brooks was the type of player you respected for the way he played the game.”
Perhaps the most famous act of kindness that showed just how kindhearted Laich is, was an incident that occurred shortly after the Capitals’ heartbreaking Game 7 loss to the Montreal Canadiens in the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs. Driving home, Laich saw two women in Caps gear standing on the side of the road where their car had broken down. While some players would feel more like cooling off after such a big loss, Laich stopped and repaired their car for them. Laich made national headlines for this act of generosity.
Laich was also a class act that never gave up on the ice, recording five seasons of 15 or more goals (including three 20+ goal seasons), and four seasons of 20 or more points. Laich evolved into a reliable penalty killer and leader for the Caps, wearing his heart on his sleeve every single night. Laich’s positive attitude never wavered, even when he became a regular fourth-line player nor when injuries nagged him continuously. And if it had not been for an unlucky groin injury during the lockout of 2012-13, Laich may still be a 20-goal scorer and 40 or more point producer. Laich suffered two setbacks that deprived him of regular playing time and after he finally returned, was never the same.
Despite these hardships, Laich came to the rink every day with a determined attitude, hard work ethic, and a smile on his face. His departure, no matter how necessary it may have been for the Capitals’ salary cap situation, is still hard. No. 21 will certainly be missed in Washington.
**Side note: If the Caps were to win the Stanley Cup, they could petition the NHL to have Laich’s name inscribed on the Stanley Cup. He played the minimum 41 games with the Caps to qualify**
By Michael Fleetwood