Photo: Mitchell Layton/Getty Images
Nine years ago, Capitals’ goaltender Jose Theodore left the Capitals’ game against the Ottawa Senators because of a hip flexor injury he sustained during the Capitals’ morning skate. Former-Capitals goalie Semyon Varlamov, now with the Colorado Avalanche, had been recalled from Hershey to back up starter Brent Johnson, but Hershey was in San Antonio and Varlamov was unable to get to D.C. in time for puck drop, so Washington was in a bind.
The Capitals got special permission from the NHL to dress three netminders. The Capitals’ website producer, Brett “Stretch” Leonhardt served as the Capitals’ backup until Varlamov arrived midway through the first period.
When second intermission came around, Leonhardt was doing his regular job, being the cameraman for the Capitals’ postgame interviews.
When reporters asked him about dressing for the game, he said, “Every dream come true. Growing up in Canada, playing since I was 4. It was just very surreal. It was a blur, went by real quick.”
“Stretch” went through the pregame routine with the Capitals and dressed as No. 80 for the game. He was greeted by the Capitals’ players and Alex Ovechkin shot pucks at him during the pregame skate.
He was on the Capitals bench midway through the first period and he looked down shyly when shown he was shown on the huge replay screen along with the caption: “1st NHL game.” The crowd went nuts.
The Capitals’ website producer played two years for Oswego State in New York and two years for Neumann College in Pennsylvania before graduating in 2007. He had worked for the Capitals’ website for about a year and taken part in drills during practices when the team needed an extra goalie. He wore one of his college masks from Neumann during warmups.
At the end, Leonhardt joked around, saying, “I should pay them for being able to do this.”
Leonhardt left the Caps in 2011 to take a video editing job with the NHL in Toronto but returned to Washington the next year as the team’s video coach and is currently in his sixth year with the team in that capacity.
Leonhardt reprised his role as emergency backup five years later, suiting up against the Montreal Canadiens on November 29, 2013, after Michal Neuvirth suffered an injury stepping on a puck during pregame warmups.
Despite dressing for the game, Leonhardt stuck with his day job, breaking down video for the team during the second intermission.
Photo: Sergey Kocharov
By Harrison Brown