The Washington Capitals are a simple crew. This iteration of the team is well-equipped to be in a bubble, quarantined away from the rest of human civilization. To pass time, Alex Ovechkin plays Candy Crush on his phone, TJ Oshie hosts MarioKart battles with his teammates, and Evgeny Kuznetsov watches Family Feud on TV when he’s not ragequitting games of FIFA or NHL20 on his gaming console.
Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby also provides his own original brand of entertainment as well.
“Holts plays the guitar,” Oshie said during a Zoom conference call and transcribed by The Athletic’s Tarik El-Bashir. “I don’t even know if we’re allowed to be in a room yet, but if we could all get in a room and Holts just jams on the guitar and we all chat and hang out, this team finds it’s very easy for us to entertain each other and hang out and have fun. Just being together, I think, is going to be important during this playoff stretch here after a four-month break from seeing each other.”
Days later, El-Bashir asked Holtby if he was indeed bringing his guitar to the team’s bubble in Toronto, where the Capitals will be staying at Hotel X along with the Pittsburgh Penguins and a few other teams.
“Yeah, I bring a guitar on the road every time. It’s a travel guitar,” Holtby said before joking. “I don’t know. I don’t think it’s about me playing. I think it’s more whether they like listening or not. How many people leave.”
Holtby went on to explain that the guitar “folds up and (is) easy to take everywhere. Carbon fiber so it doesn’t break.”
The goaltender’s deep love of music can be credited to his parents. Holtby’s mom Tami was the lead singer of a country band in Saskatchewan. While playing junior hockey, Holtby taught himself how to play guitar and he’s brought that routine to the NHL where he will play impromptu sets for the team after morning skates and practices.
“I’m always searching for ways to create that similarity every game day, of the mindset I’m trying to get into,” Holtby said to Sports Illustrated’s Alex Prewitt in 2016. “A lot it is the mental prep, the breathing, the imagery, but throughout the day you don’t want to be angry or sleepy or all those different feelings you have that could change your view on how you’re going to perform that night. Music just always takes you back to the same place. Any type of music, you listen to it, it changes your mood, your outlook on things. That’s my reason for doing it, I guess.”
In October 2018, we got a preview of what a jamming Holtby looked like when a Twitter user posted video of the Vezina Trophy winner playing a set in Vancouver at The Dubh Linn Gate. Alex Ovechkin and Holtby’s Capitals teammates can be seen cheering him on.
Holtby also had the chance to celebrate his love of music during his Cup day when his parents gifted him a Prestige Rebel guitar. The goalie showed his appreciation by posing with it in front of the Stanley Cup.
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