Richmond-native Chelsea D. had been looking forward to this day for months. The 23-year-old sociology major from VCU has been a Washington Capitals fan for years. Her father Greg — a huge hockey fan himself– takes his daughter to five to ten Caps games a year. On New Year’s Eve, he asked Chelsea if she wanted to try something different this time. Something a little more fanatical.
“You interested in going to Casino Night? It’s in March. Mom doesn’t want to go.” Greg said. “I promise I won’t embarrass you much.”
In disbelief, Chelsea replied, “I’ll definitely go! But yes, please don’t embarrass me.”
Life threw the family a curve ball a few weeks later. Greg had to get knee replacement surgery at the end of January, then a few days before Casino Night, there was a death in the family. Greg, already hobbling as it was, had to go out to Las Vegas.
Chelsea wasn’t sure she’d still go without her dad. Unsure what to do, she asked her boyfriend Evan if he would come along. Evan, a Caps fan himself, obliged.
And then, despite all the trouble following them around lately, a special moment – that could have happened to anyone – found their family.
The tickets Greg bought were for the VIP experience, $450 a piece. That allowed Chelsea and Evan the opportunity to meet all the Caps players and get autographs from them before they entered the main room.
Chelsea took photos with nearly every player on the team. She met Alex Ovechkin (who was wearing a very subtle, blue suit) and fellow Russians Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitry Orlov. She even got a puck signed by Joel Ward for her mother — the biggest Ward superfan alive.
But it wasn’t until later — when Chelsea and Evan looked through the photos on their digital camera — that they noticed they had something special.
Troy Brouwer had Brouwerbombed her photo with Marcus Johansson.
“We initially had no clue,” Chelsea told me the day after Caps Casino Night in an online interview. “That was the first picture we took at the event. Evan didn’t notice while it was happening. He was really just trying to hold the camera still!”
She continued, “When I first saw it, I was like ‘Oh my god!’ It was honestly the coolest thing. We were both pretty excited!”
When I asked Chelsea if she was familiar with Brouwer’s previous shenanigans on camera this season, she replied, “I wasn’t, but Evan was and he told me about it. I was pretty stoked Brouwer had actually done it to me. I couldn’t wait to show it to my dad.”
The next day, Chelsea emailed her father, still out in Las Vegas for the funeral, a bunch of photos from her night. “LOL @ Brouwer in that first one,” Greg responded immediately.
While things haven’t gone exactly as planned lately for Chelsea’s family, they have persevered. That little gesture from Troy Brouwer meant a lot to them. It gave them a little levity right when they needed it.