Not All Heroes Wear Helmets: The Story of Craig “Woody” Leydig’s Stanley Cup Celebration

Photo: NBC Sports

It’s a moment in time that no Capitals fan will ever forget. There was 0.06 seconds on the clock in the third period of Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final. The face off was set to take place to the left of Braden Holtby. As the referee dropped the puck, the clock wound down and the final buzzer sounded. The Washington Capitals poured out of the benches and onto the ice. 

The streets back home in DC were alive with the cries of jubilant fans, all rocking the red. And while the players embraced one another on the ice, so too did Capitals’ management staff. Among them was a man known as Woody. Woody, who’s real name is Craig Leydig, is the Capitals Assistant Equipment Manager. And our first Stanley Cup Championship held a lot of importance to him.

To put things into perspective, Alex Ovechkin is the longest tenured player currently in the organization, in his 13th season. Woody, on the other hand, has been working with the Capitals for 29 years.

“It was a night I will never forget as long as I live, I cannot even describe the feeling of euphoria. It was the culmination of everything I’ve worked toward. Getting a chance to hold the Stanley Cup made it seem like all those late nights and early mornings were all worthwhile,” Leydig told the Capital Gazette, reflecting on the faithful night the Caps achieved what all teams aspire to.

But the night they won it all wasn’t the only euphoric moment Woody would have while everyone celebrated. He also shared a moment with the Great Eight at the conclusion of the Championship Parade. When he was called onto the stage in the National Mall, Ovechkin grabbed the Stanley Cup and rushed to his side. There, the Captain and Equipment Manager raised Lord Stanley together in front of hundred of thousands of Capitals fans.

Photo: @Capitals

And still, Woody’s time in the spotlight isn’t over yet! On Tuesday, July 3rd, Woody will have the Cup to himself for the whole day! “I am always going to cherish the day I spent with that silver chalice”, he said proudly.

As a man of simple pleasures, Woody plans on spending most of his day with the Cup in his home, enjoying Lord Stanley’s glory privately with his wife and children.

Woody says that to be the Equipment Manager of an NHL team, one has to be a sort of jack of all trades; and must be capable of repairing pads, helmets, and skates, just to name a few things.

Each player, he reminded the Gazette, has his own routine. Once he’s learned their routines, it’s easy for Woody to stay ahead of the team. This has allowed him to develop meaningful relationships with countless players over the nearly three decades he’s spent in the Washington locker room.

That said, having been there since 2004 and 2005 respectively, Woody says he shares a very special connection with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. “Alex was a teenager who knew about 25 words of English. Doug Shearer and I were there to greet Ovi and welcome him to the Capitals organization,” Leydig said. “Long after Ovi and I are both done with the game, we will continue to exchange Christmas cards,” he reminisced.

Despite his wishes to keep his time with the Cup kept with his family, Woody has decided that he will spend 45 minutes (from 12:30-1:15 PM) with the Cup on display at Ego Alley/City Dock in Annapolis, Maryland for fans to interact with.


By: Chris Laroche

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