The face of Washington Capitals goaltending during the last decade has been Braden Holtby, or affectionately known as “Holtbeast” by fans. But prior to being drafted in 2008, many seasons spent with the AHL’s Hershey Bears and ECHL’s South Carolina Stingrays, NHL debut with the Capitals, the jaw-dropping save (you know what I’m talking about), and becoming a Stanley Cup Champion, the 30-year-old Saskatchewan native was a simply a small-town boy working on the farm who loved all things sports.
Although he was born in Lloydminster, Holtby grew up in Marshall, a small town of “about 500 people” and five hours northwest of the capital city of Regina. “It’s a very family-oriented situation because you have to lean on each other so much…there’s not a lot of other people around.”
Holtby called living on the farm “incredibly hard work”, adding, “Especially in northern Saskatchewan where it’s freezing and you’re out checking cows in minus thirty-degree weather. It wasn’t exactly for me.” He grew fond of the farm as he got older and did “appreciate that lifestyle a lot more”.
“I was pretty obsessed with sports when I was young,” Holtby said. He would spend time on small frozen ponds, on backyard rinks his father would build, or in the basement playing.
In early May, Holtby participated in an NHL Player Video Call with goaltenders Jordan Binnington of the St. Louis Blues and Matt Murray of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The trio was asked if they knew right from the beginning if they wanted to play goaltender. Holtby said he was “obsessed” with goaltending. “My dad was a goalie, so I wanted to be like him.” Holtby admitted he wasn’t very good at it back then and was better playing as a forward.
Living in a small town, Holtby spent much of his time by himself playing hockey or watching baseball and “studying” the sports that captivated him. He even put off doing chores at times as he thought that was taking away from his learning.
Holtby praised his sister Taryn for teaching him about letting go of things easily and seeing the best in difficult situations as he would mull over bad days or bad games when he was younger.
Support, encouragement, and lessons-learned have been given to Holtby since the very beginning. “If you believe in yourself…you put your mind and energy towards something, you can do whatever you want.”
By Della Young