Wednesday before facing off against the Winnipeg Jets, the Washington Capitals faced a dilemma when Braden Holtby was too injured to even backup. In stepped emergency goaltender Gavin McHale, a Jets season-ticket holder, former WHL goalie, and goaltending coach for the University of Manitoba women’s team. McHale also works as a strength coach and runs a fitness-focused website.
That night, McHale took shots from Alex Ovechkin and the rest of the reigning Stanley Cup champions during warmups and was treated like a veteran player in the locker room. The experience allowed McHale to fulfill an NHL dream he had as a kid. After the game, McHale told a crush of media that he just hoped the Capitals would let him keep the jersey.
Well, I have some great news. In an interview with RMNB Tuesday, McHale revealed the Capitals presented his sweater to him as a surprise after the game. He also got some special gifts from Alex Ovechkin and Braden Holtby.
Photos: Gavin McHale
“I got the media scrum happening and I don’t even know what’s happening behind me,” McHale said. “But, as a thank you, the [Capitals] took the jersey out of my stall, they folded it, and they presented it to me from the equipment staff. They just said, ‘As a thank you from the Washington Capitals, we want you to have this.’ I got to keep the jersey.”
It might have been just warmups, but the jersey also gave McHale evidence that he made saves on some of the greatest hockey players in the world. According to McHale, the sweater “even has a few puck marks on it.” He described that fact as “pretty exciting.”
McHale got to keep the Capitals hat he wore during the game and the undershirt he rocked under his equipment. He was allowed to keep the locker room name tag “that was somehow miraculously made up in five minutes and put on my stall.”
Alex Ovechkin and Braden Holtby also gave Gavin surprise gifts for his last-minute participation.
“During the third period, I was sitting there thinking — when I kinda realized that I probably wasn’t going to go in, — I was sittin’ there thinking, ‘I wonder what the protocol is on asking for autographs?’” McHale said. “I really didn’t want to be that guy. And before I could even ask, Ovi came up to me with a stick and said ‘As a thank you for helping us out, I’ve signed one of my game-used sticks for you and I really just want to say how much we appreciate it.’ I was just totally overwhelmed.”
There was more. “And by the time he was done,” McHale said, “Holtby was walking in with a stick that he signed and he even said ‘Go Bobcats!’ which is the local team in his hometown, the Lloydminster Bobcats, that he signed for me.”
“They treated me like gold and it was incredible,” McHale said.
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