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Encouraged by his wife, Braden Holtby continues actively championing the LGBTQ community

Encouraged by his wife, Braden Holtby continues actively championing the LGBTQ community

ARLINGTON – For Capitals goalie Braden Holtby and his wife, Brandi, it was a small gesture, but one they hope has an outsized impact because of who he is and the sport he plays. 

Speaking at the annual Human Rights Campaign dinner in Washington on Sept. 18, the Holtbys continued their support of the LGBTQ community when he introduced figure skater Adam Rippon, the first openly gay skater to win a medal at the Winter Olympics. That support is crystalized during Hockey is for Everyone month, a time of added attention to initiatives that foster social change through and in the sport.

The Holtbys have long been part of that work – and not just during February. Hockey is a sport where diversity is lacking. That’s changing at the grass roots level as it takes off in bigger American cities and it’s there the Holtbys figure they can make a difference.

“You can definitely see there’s changes being made to people’s mindset and the main thing is you want to impact the youth,” Braden Holtby said. “You want to hit that ground level so there’s respect paid from Day 1 for a person’s life and realize the importance of it. Don’t do something you don’t understand and will regret later.”

It’s something Brandi has always keenly felt growing up and helped her husband understand. On a trip to San Francisco for their honeymoon, the couple walked into an HRC Action Center and Store in a house once owned by Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man elected to public office in California as a member of the San Francisco board of supervisors. Milk, whose home and camera shop were located in the heart of the Castro District in San Francisco, was assassinated in 1978.  

The Holtbys spent a few hours talking with volunteers and learning about the organization. You might have seen the ubiquitous blue stickers with yellow stripes signifying an equals sign on cars throughout the D.C. region and the country. HRC is the largest LGBT civil rights advocacy group in the country.    

“I’ve never really been a guy for the spotlight or anything like that,” Holtby said. “I didn’t do enough early on in my career and my wife has been the one to push me to use that a bit more because you can use that for good.” 

The Holtbys showed their support in other ways. They have twice marched in the Capital Pride Parade and three times attended the Capital Pride Festival, which it is a part of. Last year Holtby was celebrating the Capitals’ Stanley Cup victory and couldn’t make the parade, but he was at the national dinner in September at the Washington Convention Center. It’s all part of starting a conversation in the sport about LGBTQ issues.  

“Especially with LGBT rights and everything it’s not a weird thing any more, people understand it better,” Holtby said. “That shows through in inclusion and it shows through in the way people live their lives. Having that empathy, it’s something you may not have thought of, especially if you grow up and play hockey your whole life and there’s one way to do things. We want people to think on a broader spectrum.”

Holtby said that trip to San Francisco early in their marriage was just the introduction to HRC, but that Brandi had always thought the issue of LGBT rights merited her support.   

“You know different people, you meet different people, whether family or otherwise, and you hear stories that you didn’t think actually happened and you don’t think is right,” Holtby said. “And that’s a big reason why she wants to push those the right way so people have a little more kindness and empathy. It’s just a small part, but hopefully if you can effect a couple people – especially the way the world is today – I think it’s good.” 

If reaching young hockey players is the main goal, the topic of LGBTQ issues can still come up organically in an NHL dressing room, too. Holtby was proud that three Capitals teammates – Brett Connolly, Chandler Stephenson and Nathan Walker – came to the HRC dinner where he made the introductory. They all had a preseason game the next day, but made the effort anyway to support Holtby and support the cause. There is strength in numbers. 

“I feel like we’re just doing our part. But it means a lot to people, especially when you see us marching in the parade here and the support that the Capitals have given, too,” Holtby said. “It means a lot for fans, especially, to know that they’re included and they’re included in our team as well no mater what their circumstances are. We’re all a family and a hockey community and we want to see that out.” 

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Trade, coronavirus makes for tumultuous year for Caps' defenseman Brenden Dillon

Trade, coronavirus makes for tumultuous year for Caps' defenseman Brenden Dillon

This is not the way Brenden Dillon envisioned his year going. At the start of the season, he had Stanley Cup aspirations with the San Jose Sharks. Now he is stuck in a hotel in Arlington, Va., on the other side of the country both from where he started and from where he calls home.

"What a year it's been, really," Dillon said in an interview with NBC Sports Bay Area. "I think for anybody, not just myself or not just a hockey player or a Sharks player specifically, if you were to talk to us in August what things would be like come March time, what it would be. I think it's just at this stage with how everything's gone for me, I almost feel like a little bit of just a lone ranger with where I'm at."

Dillon has been with the Sharks since getting traded by the Dallas Stars in November 2014. During his time there, he made the playoffs in each of the last four seasons including a run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2016. After several years there, San Jose began to feel like home. That was evident in the emotional postgame interview Dillon gave when contemplating if he had just played his last game with the Sharks.

"Leaving San Jose, I was there for a long time, had a home there, had everything kind of stability," Dillon said.

He added, "It's not just somewhere that you work, it's not just somewhere that you move to for hockey. It becomes your home, it becomes your family, your teammates. It becomes second nature where the streets, the people you meet not just at the rink but at the grocery stores, the mall, whatever it might be. You really build those relationships and then really with one phone call your life can completely change."

That phone call came on Feb. 18 when the Capitals traded for the veteran defenseman to shore up the team's blue line.

The trade itself wasn't a surprise. On an expiring contract and with the team being where they were in the standings, Dillon knew he was likely to get traded. When he got word he was going to Washington, he was excited for the opportunity, but that transition to a new team is rarely an easy one.

"You're going from, in my case, one side of the country to the other," Dillon said. "You're going and meeting 22, 23 new coworkers that you're going to see every day. I was very lucky to come to a team like Washington where, when I did come out this way, the guys, I was sitting right in between [Alex Ovechkin] and [John Carlson]. It was pretty cool to be a part of that. I think just the opportunity for me on the ice, it was a perfect fit for my kind of game, being able to skate, move pucks and play my physical brand of hockey. I think it was pretty seamless."

Now that transition has been put on hold as life decided to throw another monkey wrench Dillon's way with the spread of the coronavirus.

With the season paused, Dillon has stayed in an Arlington hotel trying to stay in shape and adjust to his new life. But he is making the best of it with his new teammates.

"There's been a lot of guys here who even during this time, whether it's just a few of us getting together and playing some tennis in the area," Dillon said. "I mean there's a good chunk of guys that are still in town so it's kind of been nice to at least have a little bit of that other than staring at a wall. I've done more puzzles and watched more Netflix than I think a lot of people could. I think though when it does come to the actual hockey part of things, it has been good out here. "

Dillon's mentality has remained positive through it all.

Though emotional about leaving San Jose, Dillon is excited about the chance to come to Washington to compete for a Cup. After a few weeks, he has a good idea of where the good spots are for food in Arlington and Washington, and he is thankful for his new teammates who have made an effort to make him feel welcome.

Dillon is excited for the opportunity that lays before him, he is just anxious to get going again.

"It was fun to be a part of a lot of success in San Jose for the five, six years that I was there," Dillon said. "I will forever cherish that time, from the fans to the city and I'll definitely go back and visit and see some of my friends that are in the town. But to come out here, already it's been a great, great group of guys from management to the coaches to the players specifically too. Really made me feel at home."

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Donut miss this: The best T.J. Oshie photo edits after 2-goal simulation game

Donut miss this: The best T.J. Oshie photo edits after 2-goal simulation game

Everyone loves a good donut, whether glazed, frosted or just plain old-fashioned (if you’re into that sort of thing). You know who really loves donuts? T.J. Oshie and his family.

Back when hockey was still being played, Oshie’s daughter Leni challenged her dad to score a goal and she would get him a donut in return.

Sure enough, he scored and they enjoyed what looked to be one of the best donuts ever eaten.

Now that we have entered the world of simulated hockey, Oshie’s pair of goals in NBC Sports Washington’s simulated game against the Rangers Thursday night meant we were going to see some donuts today.

The Capitals social team took it the next step, tweeting out a cut out photo of TJ Oshie celebrating and put it in front of a picture of a shelf full of donuts. From there, Caps fans went to work. Here are some of the best creations from Capitals nation.

Celebrating alongside his Nationals brethren as they won the World Series last November.

Oshie meeting Santa for the first time!

An excited Oshbabe hitting the dollar on the big wheel and earning that cool $1,000 on the Price is Right.

In the front seat of a roller coaster.

Seeing a fully-stocked shelf of soup at the grocery store.

And even better, TOILET PAPER!!

"Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings at a single bound!" It’s Super Donut Man.

Big fan of his own shirt chug at the parade!

Wait Krispy Kreme sponsors who?!?! Get this man a donut deal STAT.

And I might be a little biased, but my personal favorite: T.J. being a little jealous that his best friend is smooching his other best friend.

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