Several years ago, Braden Holtby and his wife Brandi took their honeymoon in San Francisco. While wandering through the Castro District, they came across the San Francisco Human Rights Campaign Action Center and Store, located in the former home of Harvey Milk.
They left with HRC bumper stickers for both their cars, with their names on the list of HRC supporters, and with an increased commitment to LGBT issues. When their D.C.-area landscaper later saw their bumper stickers, he invited the Holtbys to the organization’s annual dinner in D.C. And so Holtby attended last year’s Human Rights Campaign national dinner not as a representative of the Caps or as one of the best goalies in the NHL, but “just as a random dude trying to show support.”
The Holtbys also attended last year’s Capital Pride Festival, and planned to attend Saturday’s Capital Pride Parade as anonymous supporters in the crowd. Then the Caps asked the Vezina Trophy finalist if he’d want to march, as part of the organization’s first official participation in that parade.
“I didn’t have to think about it at all,” Holtby said in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon.
The Caps are participating in conjunction with You Can Play, a group that works to ensure equality in sports without regard to sexual orientation or gender identity. Co-founder Patrick Burke has helped the organization gain a strong foothold in the NHL, but there’s still a difference between seeing a mascot and some employees carrying signs, and seeing one of the most valuable players in the NHL.
“For fans to see that not only is the organization supportive, but also that their players are putting a face to it is incredibly important,” said Jillian Svensson, You Can Play’s vice president of development and operations. “They are role models, and [Holtby] marching in solidarity and support with the LGBT community is huge, especially for the young people in the community. Such a public display of support is huge for them.”
Holtby said he didn’t expect much of a response to the news, but that he’s already gotten significant feedback over the past 24 hours, almost all of it positive. Burke tweeted that Holtby’s family has been hugely supportive of their cause for years, a fact that Holtby credited to Brandi.
Holtby family has been a huge supporter for years. Passion for the cause is obvious- His wonderful wife's Twitter bio is a Harvey Milk quote
— Patrick Burke (@BurkieNHL) June 7, 2016
“My wife has taught me a lot more about it than I knew before, and kind of broadened my views on a lot of LGBT community issues,” he said. “We’ve just gotten to know people in around the community, and the issues they go through and what they’re trying to accomplish. We’ve tried to support them in different ways to create equality, basically. It’s something that we both feel is an issue that’s close to us, an issue we believe in, and this is one way to show that.”
Holtby said the topic comes up occasionally in the Caps’ dressing room, but that You Can Play’s efforts have significantly advanced LGBT issues in the NHL community, to where acceptance “is just the norm.” Brandi also plans to march in Saturday’s parade, and Holtby said they hope to become “more and more involved” with such issues in the future.
“You’re making a bigger statement for a cause that we feel is necessary to society,” Holtby said of his appearance. “It just seemed like a no-brainer to me.”