Saturday, December 13, 2008

Leonhardt lives every hockey fans dream.

Just when things couldn't get any wackier for the Capitals, they did.

A rash of injuries forced Washington to morph into a hybrid NHL/AHL team, which featured a dozen call ups over the past month.

And yesterday, things got a bit hairier.

During a Thursday afternoon practice goaltender Jose Theodore tweaked a hip flexor, ironically the same injury which has hampered Brent Johnson through the early part of the season.

On game day things went from bad to worse as Theodore was forced to leave practice early as his injury persisted.

Summon Brett Leonhardt.

Leonhardt, a web designer and media personality for the Capitals had been called in to practice with the on Thursday, as he played Division 3 collegiate hockey with Oswego State and Neumann College.

While Friday rolled on, it became more and more apparent that Leonhardt might have to suit up for that nights game. Hershey Bears goaltender Simeon Varlamov was stuck in San Antonio, Texas and had a devil of a time getting both himself and his equipment to D.C.. South Carolina Stingrays goaltender Michael Neuvirth couldn't get a flight out of Fort Myers, Florida and as game time approached the Capitals were forced to turn to Leonhardt.

Dawning his unmarked stall in the locker room was the cherry red Capitals jersey. Number 80. Leonhardt. A dream come true for any hockey player, regardless the level they competed.

As Leonhardt took to warm ups, the team anxiously awaited the arrival of Varlamov from Texas. He arrived at the 10:57 mark of the first period, putting an end to Leonhardt's brief tenure as the Washington Capitals back-up.

This was not the first time a similar situation has arose in the NHL. In December of 2003, the Vancouver Canucks were set to host the Pittsburgh Penguins when goaltender Dan Cloutier went down with a groin injury.

With the Manitoba Moose on the east coast, it was impossible for Alex Auld to be called up in time for the game.

The Canucks were forced to roll the dice with University of British Columbia back-up Chris Levesque, who almost had to play in the game as Johan Hedberg was shaken up.

While Levesque and Leonhardt never played in their respective games, they both will be able to tell their NHL stories, which will resonate with them for their lives.

"[My teammates] were pumped," Leonhardt said. "(Sergei) Fedorov said: 'This is why I love this organization, this is great.' Mike Green just started laughing his head off then put his arm around me and said 'Let's go.' Even (Johnson) who doesn't talk before games came over, went through warm up with me said 'Hey have fun out there.' It couldn't have been more perfect."

And perfect it was.

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