Two Sundays ago, I went to the Hershey Bears/Adirondack Phantoms game where the Bears’ AHL Record Home winning streak ended at 24. There’ll be more on RMNB’s collective bad luck later. But one thing I learned that night is that Braden Holtby is a wildly popular man. Beyond Bruce Boudreau, there is no more popular guy in Hershey. Need examples? Well, while the Bears PA guy announced the starting line-up before the game, there was a smattering of applause for the starting 5. When the PA guy announced Holtby in goal, everyone in the arena rose to their feet and gave him a roaring standing ovation. I turned to my friends in complete shock and asked “Did that really just happen??”
Oh, it most certainly did. And really, there’s a lot to love about the guy (beyond his superb fashion sense and his excellent communication skills with the bewildering Alexander Semin). Holtby has put up incredible numbers in his first professional season in the Capitals’ minor league system. Braden started the year with the South Carolina Stingrays going 7-2-3 with a .911 Save Percentage. He then rode the pine as an injury replacement player in Washington for two games before getting his first shot to stick in Hershey. And stick he did. Since receiving that promotion, Holtby has gone 23-6-2 with 2 Shutouts for the AHL’s most winningest team. His sparkling 2.36 GAA and above average .917 Save Percentage are among AHL Leaders. And really, what has the Chocolate and White fans talking is the fact that Holtby has single-handedly won games this year by himself – even with the incredible roster around him. That has many in Hershey thinking he could eventually push his way into the discussion of who deserves to be the goalie of the future in Washington between Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth.
But if you’re looking for a statistical dissertation of who’s better among those three (SEMYON VARLAMOV), you’ve come to the wrong place my friends. Instead, RMNB has found another reason to fall in love with the twenty year old from Saskatoon: His eccentric “Holtbyisms.”
Don’t know what we’re talking about? We’ll let Bears regular Kathryn Hedrick explain:
As a Holtby admirer since he came to the Hershey Bears, I was already aware of the many rituals and tics he has when he plays. But it wasn’t until I had front row seats right by him on Sunday night that I saw just how much he did. Goalies are a whole different world of hockey players and we all know how superstitious they can be. But I think Holtby goes above and beyond the rest with his rituals. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. There were times when the action was on the other side of the ice but I would still watch him.
These “Holtbyisms,” as they’ve become known, occur from the second he gets on the ice until he gets off (and, let’s be honest, he probably has more that he does in the locker room). During every stoppage in play, he pushes his mask on his head, picks up his water bottle, squirts it at the boards, then squirts it in his mouth. He swishes the water around and then spits it back out through his teeth (Photo Montage Here). I realized how hard it would be to explain some of it to other people so I took two videos of Holtby: one at the start of the period, and one at the end (shown below).
The Bears beat the Binghamton Senators 3-2 that night and Holtby was called on to make several huge saves. He’s easily having the best year of any rookie on the team and he’s putting up some monster stats for someone who was expected to be in South Carolina this season. Maybe these habits aren’t so strange…
Here’s Video of Braden Holtby at the beginning of a period.
Holtby flies into the video around the 10 second mark… and then pure hilarity ensues.
Now Here’s Video of Braden Holtby at the end of a period.
Please notice the thorough sweeping of the crease, the maniacal swipes at the pipes with his stick and then the awesome flip shot of the gatorade bottle into his glove. Somehow, this is even more ridiculous than Karl Alzner’s Superstitions.
Now I know I said the other day that Mike Green was my new favorite player. But after seeing the Holtbyisms described above, I think I’ve got a new number one.
Anyways, I wanted to extend a huge thanks to Kathryn for her writeup, photos and video. Please make sure to follow her on Twitter and thank her for her time. Kathryn, once you’re of age, we’ll buy you a beer (Please God, don’t tell your parents that). And for those of you who have witnessed the Holtbyisms live, tell us more about them in the comments below. Feel free to link to any other photos or videos.