It may no longer be the holiday season, but Nicklas Backstrom was still in a giving mood after the Capitals’ 4-3 overtime victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday. The game was the Capitals’ last for 11 days due to the NHL’s All-Star Weekend and the Caps’ bye week.
As the Swedish center was walking off the ice, Backstrom noticed a kid who was wearing a Capitals jersey and handed him his game-used stick.
That kid’s name is Drew Greenberg. The big Backstrom fan was overwhelmed by the star’s gesture.
“Drew was close to tears and I think trying to hold it together because everyone around us was watching,” Emily Greenberg, Drew’s mom, said. “He said his hand wouldn’t stop shaking and he just couldn’t stop smiling.”
The entire family including dad, Nate, and youngest son, Ben, all took a picture together before leaving Nationwide Arena.
“Ben, our younger son, was also excited and jealous and asked 1,000 questions,” Emily said. “He begged his brother to hold it. He kept looking at Backstrom’s name on the stick like it wasn’t real. Drew asked if he could call his aunt to tell her before we even left the arena.
“We walked back to the hotel and all Drew could talk about was telling his teammates and where in his room he is going to hang it,” she added. “And his room decor is All Caps – of course. I think Drew fell asleep with a smile on his face.”
So how did a family of Capitals fans end up at an away game in Columbus, Ohio?
Emily explained that she and her husband Nate first met in Washington DC, 19 years ago. She grew up in Oxford, Ohio, and her husband grew up in Portage, Michigan. Nate played club hockey at the University of Michigan and she went to Denison University to play field hockey.
“Nate introduced me to what my sons call ‘the real hockey’ and it was a quick love for both of us with the Capitals,” Emily said. “We are pretty sure Drew’s first jersey was a Backstrom jersey, and he definitely wasn’t yet one for his first game. We even split season tickets with a group.”
It didn’t hurt either that John Walton’s dad and Emily’s parents worked together for close to 20 years.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Emily and Drew’s employers let them move from DC back to Oxford, Ohio, in October 2020.
“The boys now play hockey for the Miami’s Jr RedHawks, and religiously watch their Caps play – though it’s often a bedtime argument,” Emily said. “We miss going to games in DC but we are so lucky they come to Columbus a couple times a year.”
What made the Backstrom gift so consequential and emotional was what happened for Drew’s birthday last year.
“I tested positive for COVID a day before,” Emily said. “It was so frustrating. Our family had to lock down for the weekend and I was really sick. Drew and I have a hereditary blood disorder and compromised immune systems. So not only was he upset that ‘Mommy and Covid’ ruined his birthday, but he was terrified he was also going to get it. Needless to say, it was a long weekend.
“This year, I had to make up for last year,” she added. “I asked Drew if he wanted a birthday party or to come to the game. He didn’t even hesitate. The excitement leading up to the game was so much.”
The family surprised Drew by getting a birthday shoutout on the Nationwide Arena jumbotron.
“When it was tied 3-3 going into overtime, the younger brother had his eyes covered and Drew might have chewed off his finger nails.”
The Capitals ended up winning, Nate and Ben were put on TV by NBC Sports Washington cameras, and Nate got the best birthday gift of his life.
“I think I’m forgiven for last year!” Emily said.
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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