Brett Leonhardt’s long and winding career with the Washington Capitals has seen him wear many different hats. Since landing a job with the team in 2007, Stretch has served as the Caps’ video producer, Arena DJ, and emergency backup goaltender. But in 2018, Leonhardt became a Stanley Cup champion by serving as an official member of the team’s coaching staff.
Thursday, the six-foot-seven, goalie-turned-video-coach had his day with the Cup and brought the NHL’s championship trophy to New Hamburg Arena. The barn is located just outside of Kitchener, Ontario, and was where Leonhardt first learned to skate.
The moment was a dream come true.
“This is where it all began for me. This is where I went to high school (Waterloo-Oxford) and developed friendships with kids that lived in Tavistock, New Hamburg, Wellesley, and all those other small towns,” Leonhardt said to The Record’s Mark Bryson. “I’ve seen a lot of familiar faces today, old neighbors, old teammates and old coaches, and even a guy I worked with at No Frills, my first job. It’s been a great day so far.”
According to Bryson’s report, 1,000 fans cycled through to get a photo with the NHL’s championship trophy. Hundreds had already lined up 30 minutes before Leonhardt was supposed to arrive.
— Caryn Ceolin (@carynceolin) August 2, 2018
— JeffGerberPresents (@walterjeffrey1) August 2, 2018
Once the event started fans touched the trophy and posed as Leonhardt looked on with a smile.
Son got to see Stanley Cup again. Nice shirt, bud. Quality ball cap, though. pic.twitter.com/MDrMk2armH
— Ryan Pyette (@RyanatLFPress) August 3, 2018
There were group shots.
Washington Capitals video coach Brett Leonhardt has brought the Stanley Cup to the arena in New Hamburg this morning pic.twitter.com/yaW1jqNSIM
— Terry Bridge (@BeaconTerry) August 2, 2018
— FHS Boys Basketball (@CadetBoysHoops) August 3, 2018
There were selfies.
— Mike ‘Did I Tweet That?’ R!ce (@mrice117) August 2, 2018
One bold fan even wore a Deadguins shirt for his pic.
A post shared by Mark Gillis (@mark__gillis) on
“I played all my mite hockey here before playing AAA in Kitchener,” Leonhardt said to CTV News. “Coolest part of the day for me so far, at 8:30, I went out to the parking lot and grabbed the Cup from the guy who handles it. He got it out of his trunk. I walked it in, walked it right to center ice here. Just to look in the old barn to see it’s the exact same way that I remembered it as a kid was a really surreal moment and awesome. It meant a lot to me.”
Jeff Gerber, Brett’s history teacher in high school, said Leonhardt used to joke that he’d bring the Cup back to where it all started if he ever had the opportunity. It actually happened.
“It was important that I brought [the Stanley Cup] to a couple of these small towns that were a big part of my life growing up,” says Leonhardt. The public viewing is on until 11 a.m. @570NEWS pic.twitter.com/43tidC4Q9X
— Caryn Ceolin (@carynceolin) August 2, 2018
Leonhardt’s road to the NHL was not typical. He first tried out for the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers in 2000, but couldn’t stick, eventually playing in the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League, where he suited up for the Cambridge Winter Hawks and Kitchener Dutchmen. Stretch would go on to play NCAA hockey at Oswego State in New York and Neumann University in Aston, Pennsylvania. Leonhardt graduated with a bachelor of arts in communications and media arts. He was a recipient of the John A. Phillips Scholar-Athlete Award as well as the John Facenda Award for excellence in communication arts.
After leaving school, Leonhardt and his future wife Logan traveled to Washington, DC to begin their careers. Logan landed a job as a teacher while Stretch, who “wanted to get away from hockey”, ironically ended up being hired by the Caps communications department. From 2007 to 2011, Leonhardt worked as the team’s web and video producer until he moved on to Toronto to serve as the NHL’s video manager for hockey operations. In his role, the former goaltender was responsible for breaking down and handling all video for rule changes, video reviews, and officiating issues.
The hockey lifer then returned back to Washington in 2012 to become the Capitals’ video coach. After five seasons on the job, Leonhardt became a Cup champion in June. In July, Stretch was promoted to the position of assistant coach (video).
After taking photos with fans and meeting up with old friends, Leonhardt left the ice rink and headed to a backyard barbecue at his parents’ home.
— Dave Williams (@WILLD75) August 3, 2018
Later he visited the Howie Morenz Memorial Garden in Mitchell, Ontario, to pay honor to one of the greatest hockey players of all time.
The @Capitals video coach Brett Leonhardt shares the spotlight with the #StanleyCup in front of the "Mitchell Meteor" Howie Morenz plaque. @CanadiensMTL @NHL @HockeyHallFame pic.twitter.com/6oQX02d5O0
— Philip Pritchard (@keeperofthecup) August 2, 2018
In the evening, Leonhardt took the Cup out on the town to Gables Tavern before giving the championship trophy back to the keepers at midnight.
The Stanley Cup is in the house! pic.twitter.com/K0NbuhoB7x
— Marilyn Buggy (@mbuggylondon) August 3, 2018
Headline photo: CTV News
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