It's hard not to love Braden Holtby and his black-rimmed glasses. (Photo Katie Stansbery)

It's hard not to love Braden Holtby and his black-rimmed glasses. (Photo Katie Stansbery)

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.

  • I will never outdo this post.

  • He high fives Coco the bear? So awesome!

  • shawn carr

    Not only does he high five coco, but ever time a bear scores they come down to him and he gives them a high five. Also, during every stoppage of play when he squirts a stream of water towards the board, he follows that stream with his eyes as it falls to the ice. Whenever there is to be a faceoff in his zone, Holtby does a little jump stop and comes down into his crouch ready for the faceoff.

  • Sarah

    Watch him during the national anthem. He shuffles back and forth the whole time, then at the last line (I think), he freezes in place and doesn’t move until the honor guard leaves. Then he turns around and skates backwards into the goal. While not a quirk, I love how after each Bears goal, he skates up to be a part of the knuckles line at the bench. He’s so much fun to watch, while he’s playing and while he’s quirking.


  • I’m with Bruce, goalies are weird and I don’t understand them.

    That said, Holtby looks pretty sane compared to a guy like Patrick Roy. That guy was nuts.

  • @monimaz

    I can’t wait to go to a Bears game. I wish I’d known about this sooner.

  • Chuck

    My daughter started watching him when he first showed up and she pointed out his prep for the game and before each period. She referred to it as Happy Feet from the movie. He sure has kept his team happy with his play this year. Hopefully he will keep us going to the Calder Cup! Go Bears.

  • I love Braden and his Holtby-ism’s. I have highlighted a few of them on my Hershey Bears goalie blog and also on my youtube.com channel. A few are listed below. This post on my blog right after he was recalled to the Caps was a result of so many readers emailing me and asking who he was an why he was soooo popular. Gotta love the guy!


    Below are some video links from my youtube.com channel.

    The water bottle flick: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GrOy4Qd761Y
    Holtby-isms prior to face off: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xkM65sa9Brg
    During the National Anthem: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZWOha3wqCY
    Diving poke check: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p84lL_pu80Y

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  • Sherry

    How funny for this article to appear now. I’m a great follower of goalies. Particularly over the top rookie goalies. So it seems are most Bears fans. Last season our eyes were on Neuvy, and this season is Holtby. I’ve always watched Braden’s pre-period prep, but for some reason he had my undivided attention on Sunday night against Bingo. The video is the perfect preservation of his ritual. The Caps organization has had a great eye for young goalies, and Holtby has been no exception. He fiercely guards his net and is not afraid to physically prove his presence to the point of being feisty. You can’t help but love him. Last season Neuvy was our point of grace to the Calder Cup. This season we will have the tandem of Neuvy and Holtby to carry us through with Cash on the bubble. *thumbs up* Speaking about successful rookie goalies, I will always feel Carey Price single-handedly beat the Bears for the Calder Cup. He was a one man wrecking machine.

  • BTW, I forgot to mention….. great post! Awesome stuff. I appreciate the great coverage you give the Bears!

  • During the National anthem he shuffles around and does this little nervous-looking dance, all the while keeping his head down. I’ve definitely watched him for his quirks – he’s got a lot of them!

  • Hey, I’m only a month away from turning 21. 😉

  • Mark

    Holtby will be a star on the ice for the Caps for years to come. Off the ice he’ll be a star with the female caps fans, word on the street is that he’s already the “Hershey Brooks Laich”. After seeing the trendy specs I will only refer to Mr. Holtby as “The Future Masthead of ScarlettCaps.com”

  • @Derek: Thanks for the kind words. Can you shoot us your email? We’d love to drop you a note!

    @Kathryn: You’re getting a beer in a month from us then!

    Thanks to everyone else for sharing their photos and vids! Keep it coming!

  • Kathryn,

    If you are up for a playoff game after you turn 21, I’ll buy you a beer. (even though you made me feel old at this game… lol)

    I didn’t realize you were taking video, too. I’ve watched him enough now that I kind of take for granted all his little rituals. I like the stick twirl that he does, too. Someone mentioned the aggressive stop that he does for a faceoff in his end rather than gliding to a stop. He does something similar after the Bears score a goal. When he skates to the top of the circle (always the same spot) he also does a little hockey stop. Just another thing that shows the aggressive nature of this goalie.

  • Mary K.

    He’s fun to watch in more ways than one!

  • Derek

    Email sent. By the way if you are ever coming up for another Bears game let me know. I’ll get in on the beer drinking with you!


  • Katie

    I definitely noticed the spraying and spitting of the water which occurred pretty much constantly.

  • ovifan8

    This kid is amazing. The way he plays is incredible and how he goes through each and every little detail of his game is mind blowing.

  • FedFed

    Is he a future “Dancing with the stars” participator?

  • hahahaha Fedor

  • Taylor

    I now officially love Holtby more than Neuvy.

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  • Joe

    My wife and I sit behind the net by the zamboni and have noticed a lot of Holtbyisms. The one I like the best is during the Anthem he “steps” his hands up from his hips to his chest and then back down. One other one we like is when he comes towards the net before the period he does a little shoulder shuffle once to the right and once to the left. We have also gotten into the habit of wiping the glass down with our rally towels after he squirts the water. Of course we’re on the other side of the glass from him but we do it. He has seen us doing it and I am sure he thinks we are crazy. Love the guy and I hope sticks around the Caps for a long time.

  • TrepFan

    I love his quirks too. We especially like his “Holtby Hop” he does before taking a faceoff is his own zone.

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  • Brandicus

    Great article! I went to watch the Caps practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex this morning and was pleasantly surprised to see that Holtby was practicing with them! He’s not only an amazing goalie, but dang he’s a babe and a half. Now I have an excuse to stare at him 😛 I’ll just say I’m observing his Holtby-isms <3