Saturday, December 13, 2008
As the Washington Capitals warmed up for their game last night, the largest applause at Verizon Center was for Web site producer-turned-backup goaltender Brett Leonhardt.
With José Theodore ruled out because of a hip flexor injury and prospect Simeon Varlamov from the American Hockey League's Hershey Bears unable to reach Washington by game time, the Capitals were without a backup for starter Brent Johnson. So Washington received permission from the NHL to sign the 6-foot-7 Leonhardt, 26, to an amateur tryout contract that would allow him to sit on the bench.
"Early afternoon [General Manager] George McPhee came over to my cubicle, tapped me on the shoulder. . . . He kind of scared me, he goes: 'Be ready,' " said Leonhardt, who practiced with Washington twice this week, something he has done a handful of times since joining the Capitals in December 2007.
Leonhardt, a former Division III goalie and a native of Kitchener, Ontario, sat in the team's pregame meeting, dressed in the locker room and skated in warmups. He left the bench at the 10:57 mark of the first period when Varlamov was ready, and was back in the dressing room taking video for the Capitals' Web site after the game.
"I should pay the team for being able to do this," he said. "It was like every dream come true."
-- Katie Carrera