Sunday, October 18, 2009

Brett Leonhardt’s 15 Minutes of Fame (12-13-2009)

This is one in a series of "best of " posts that will run while I am in the hinterland of the American desert Southwest where Internet service is sporadic at best. Some are timely and some need to be taken in the context of the date of first publication. Enjoy and comment if you wish.

Every once and a while the realities of life and logistics will come into play and a normal unassuming person gets thrusts into the national spotlight for their “15 minutes of fame”, a term coined by 60’s oddball Andy Warhol. On Friday, that was the case for Washington Capitol’s web video editor Brett Leonhardt in what has to be one of the top “feel good” stories of this NHL season.

Friday started off like most normal days for Brett Leonhardt until he was called in to help with morning practice after Jose Theodore had to leave for a hip flexor injury. The former college goalie had practiced before with the Capitols when they had been shorthanded or when a regular goalie need a maintenance day so it wasn’t his first time on the ice with the Alexanders, Ovechkin and Semin and the other Caps.

As he related in his post game interview, Leonhardt was told about 1:00 he that there may be a logistical problem in getting AHL Hershey goalie Simeon Varlamov to the Verizon Center in time for the game. Caps General Manager George McFee asked him to sign a tryout contract and to be prepared to be in goal during warm ups and ready to play should starting goalie Brent Johnson aggravate his hip injury. The Capitol brass hastily contacted the league to get special permission to dress three goalies for the game.

Varlamov’s flight from Texas was scheduled to arrive at Reagan National Airport about 7:00 so Leonhardt took the backup’s rotation during warm-ups and stood on his head in spite of the butterflies in his gut. His highlight of the day was listening to Coach Bruce Boudreau’s pre game motivational speech and looking around the room and seeing some of the best players in the NHL ready to take the ice.

As the game started, number 80 sat on the Washington bench wearing a white Capitol’s hat and enjoying the best seat in the house. About halfway thought the first period with the Caps leading 1-0, Varlamove was dressed and ready and Brett Leonhardt’s brief NHL career came to an end. He got dressed and resumed his normal job of shooting film for the team.

During the post game Leonhard is normally the man behind the camera but on this night he was center stage fielding questions from all quarters. Goalie Bret Johnson and others were all asked about their new team mate and had glowing remarks about him. When asked what he would do with his jersey, he said he would frame it and give it to his father who has meant everything to him. What an honor for any father!

This was not by any means Leonhard’s first game time experience. The 26 year old native of Grand Bend, Ontario played college hockey at SUNY Oswego and Neumann College. He set the record for being the tallest goalie ever in the NCAA and would have tied the NHL record had he been forced into service. In Juniors he attended camps for both the Kitchener Rangers and London Knights. The majority of his junior career was spent with the Kitchener Dutchman in the Midwestern Junior B League.

In closing, we would like to give a tip of the cap to Brett Leonhardt for his 15 minutes of fame and to Ted Leonsis and the Washington Capitols for giving one of their own employees a chance to make a dream come true.

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass

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