Braden Holtby's usually not the loudest in the room or one to show emotion, but that changed Wednesday.
In a piece he penned for the Players' Tribune titled "...And Then We Got Mario Kart Tattoos!" the 29-year-old talked about growing up on a farm in Saskatchewan with "900 cows," becoming an NHL goalie, playing Mario Kart with his teammates and ultimately, winning the Cup.
The story started with Holtby talking about his teammates' Mario Kart obsession, which started when former Caps blueliner Nate Schmidt buying a used Nintendo 64. It started off with a couple guys competing in Schmidt's hotel room, but quickly became a playoff tradition, with half of the team crowded around a TV watching and playing in high-stakes races, which led to teammate T.J. Oshie promising to get a Wario tattoo if they won a Cup title.
"A part of it was the fact that there's so much pressure and stress during a playoff run. You're away from your family for such long stretches," Holtby said. "Guys just needed to have that feeling of freedom and fun, kind of like when you're at a tournament with your buddies growing up."
He then went more into his past and talked about growing up on his family's farm, where he'd pretend to play for the Toronto Blue Jays and play goalie by himself by throwing a ball against the wall with one hand and making a save with the other.
"I probably saved 10 million shots off that wall as Patrick Roy," Holtby wrote. "Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals, everything on the line. In our little unfinished basement in the middle of nowhere."
Growing up, Holtby, against his father's wishes, decided to play goalie and suited up to his local team, which wasn't necessarily the best performing; they got outscored 22-4 at one point. And taking after his idol in Roy, Holtby acted as he would, shouting at his teammates and breaking his stick on the crossbar.
"I'd go crazy, because that's what I thought was cool," Holtby said, adding that his father finally told him, "'Braden, I'm only going to tell you this one time. You break the stick, you buy the stick. That's it."
He also discussed "the save" in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final, which he hadn't been completely vocal about in the past but was still a life-changing – and game-changing – play.
"You're never supposed to be in that position in the first place," Holtby explained. "You never want to be in that position, where you're making a save in desperation. When I reached out with my stick, he had to shoot it exactly where I thought he'd shoot it. There's luck involved for sure."
The play ultimately served as a turning point in the Vegas series and was a big reason the Caps went on to win the Cup, and in turn, party for hours straight.
Holtby mentioned that a lot of those memories are "blurry," but he does remember that despite being exhausted, he continued to party with his teammates. His most vivid memory was how he and a few of his temamates ended up at Tattoo Paradise in D.C., where he held Jakub Vrana's hand while he got his tattoo and saw Oshie follow through on that promise to get that Wario tattoo to symbolize all their playoff memories.
You can check out the whole piece here.
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