Wondering whether we can still find grace and honor anywhere around Washington?
Yes, you can. It was on full display Sunday afternoon at a hockey rink.
The Georgetown Titans were in trouble. Their goalie was sick, and they had no backup to face the Hagerstown Bulldogs at their Maryland rink.
But Leopold Hylton stepped up. He’d never played goalie before. Heck, he’d never even worn the huge pads or held that mighty stick before. But his team needed help, and he would be the one to do it.
It took him so long to figure out the gear and get it on that he had no time to practice before puck drop.
The buzzer sounded, and wham! Wham! Wham! Leopold had a hard time getting up in those huge pads. He kept holding the stick high, like a winger. Not down low, like a goalie. Seven goals in the first period. It was a disaster.
When the period ended, as Leopold headed toward the bench, a little beat up, he was intercepted.
Kaiden Whaley, the Bulldogs’ goalie, had skated over and stopped him.
And right there, on the ice, a Bulldog and Titan met for a five-minute goalie clinic.
“Here’s how you hold your stick. Down,” Kaiden said.
And he showed his opponent how to get back up, how to defend.
On the Titans’ bench, where coaches were preparing the buck-up-you’re-doing-great-just-enjoy-the-game speech, there was a sense of wonder at what was unfolding before them.
“I was close to tears during the first intermission, it was so humbling,” said Georgetown team manager Bill Schultheiss.
After the buzzer sounded, the goalies returned to their goals. The crowd, at this point, was giddy. Everyone — Bulldogs fans and Titans die-hards — cheered for every save both goalies made.
In the next two periods, Leopold let only three more goals in.
These players, who showed the world the true meaning of grace, who showed the very definition of sportsmanship, honor and righteousness? They are 9 years old.
Schultheiss tweeted the moment, which he had photographed, and it was just what America needed.
A lesson in humanity, right there in an under-10 squirts-division game.
Kaiden’s dad, Shane Whaley, was there. And he was proud of his son.
“I was over there yelling at them both, telling them to get their sticks down,” Whaley said. “And when the period was over, I told him, ‘Kaiden, go help him!’ ”
Kaiden did. It’s what his parents taught him to do.
Just like the Braves game back when they lived in Georgia and the announcer highlighted a girl in the stands who was battling cancer. Kaiden caught a flyball at that game, and the first thing he did was hand it over to that girl.
“You’ve just got to start at a young age and teach them to do the right thing,” said his dad, a man of few words who works for Tractor Supply Co. and had to head out of town for work right after the game, missing Kaiden’s brief moment of national fame.
Whaley’s not a typical hockey dad. He’d never played before.
He was dragged into the world of hockey by his 13-year-old daughter, who started playing in-line hockey in Georgia, then hit the ice as she got older, winning league awards as a defender. Her little brother, Kaiden, followed in her bladesteps.
Remember how we’ve been talking about the actions and words of adults and how they influence children?
Shane Whaley’s LinkedIn page says a little bit about the words he chooses to embrace.
Before you get to his jobs and accomplishments and skills, he’s posted a motto under his photo.
“Do the ‘right thing’ and always encourage others to do the right, honest and ethical things.”
Yup. The dad-effect.
Leopold’s mom was a little terrified when her son went in front of that goal for the first time. And she could feel his angst with each of those goals that went past him.
“He was really frustrated in the middle of the game,” Anna Hylton said. But then, she also watched in amazement when the opposing goalie skated up to her son to help.
“Gratefulness. I feel so grateful for the beauty of that moment,” she said. And by the end of the game, all the other moms and all the dads were right there with her, cheering every one of Leopold’s saves.
“Leopold felt beautifully at the end of that game,” she said. “It was a moment that makes it all worth it.”
Leopold, however good the moment was, does not want to be a goalie again next game. Or ever, his mom said.