Whether it was changing a fan’s tire on the way home from a Game 7 loss to the Montreal Canadiens in 2010 or leaving a $100 tip for a pregnant waitress last week, Brooks Laich left his mark on the Washington Capitals and their fan base.
Today, 12 years after arriving in Washington, Laich, 32, is preparing for his new life as a Toronto Maple Leaf.
Late Sunday night Laich learned he had been dealt to the Maple Leafs, along with defensive prospect Connor Carrick and a second-round draft pick in 2016, for forward Daniel Winnik and Toronto’s fifth-round pick in 2016.
Last week I had a chance to ask Laich about that 2004 trade that brought him to Washington for Peter Bondra.
“I see it clear as day,” Laich said. “John Paddock called me into his office. It was during a morning skate. I had half my equipment on and walked down to his office and he said he can’t let me go on the ice because I was about to be traded. It was going to be to Washington and it was going to be for Peter Bondra.
“It was like, I didn’t know what to think, you know? I really enjoyed playing for John and I didn’t want to leave. But on the other side, I was excited for a good opportunity to be on a young, rebuilding team and to try to make the NHL.
“It worked out great for me but it’s always difficult. You kind of brand yourself with an organization and then when you are traded it’s very difficult because you have good friends and you’re part of the community.
“The flip side of that is that you’re going somewhere where they asked for you. They wanted you. They sought you out. So you’re going somewhere where you’re welcomed. It’s a new opportunity. Change is part of life. So … I don’t know. I’ve been through it before but hopefully I don’t have to go through it.”
Laich spent Monday morning traveling to Toronto and Leafs coach Mike Babcock said he anticipates Laich will play tonight against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
"A real good man, a real good person," Babcock said when asked about Laich. "Obviously, he's in the last year coming up on his deal. I know he treats people real well and he'll be a good guy to be around our kids."
Since James van Riemsdyk wears No. 21 Laich will wear No. 23. The Leafs visit Verizon Center on Wednesday in what should be an emotion return to the city Laich called home for a dozen years.