Unsung heroes: Matt Bradley
“Unsung heroes” is a misnomer. Everybody loves Matt Bradley. What I really mean is “Non-Ovechkin-Backstrom-Semin heroes,” and I think we can all agree that Bradley is none of those people. Can you see I’m trying to protect myself from making controversial comments? It’s a new thing I’m trying out.
But there is something extraordinary about Bradley – something more than meets the eye. Of course what meets the eye is a guy with 55 goals and 139 points in 600 NHL games, who according to voters on hockeyfights.com has won only 23 percent of his fights over the past five seasons. Sometimes Bradley feels older to me than his 32 years, and smaller than his 6-3, 201-pound body. Half his goals feel like they’re tipped in by somebody, going off a skate or a stick during messy scrum in front of the goal.
But that’s my favorite type of goal, and Bradley is my favorite type of player. He works hard and he gets in guys' faces, shutting down opposing teams’ players with his nagging presence. A role like that takes a lot of energy, but Bradley seems to show up every night. He may sometimes fly under the radar to my untrained eyes, but you’d better believe that coaches and players are acutely aware of his presence on the ice.
I know being a good guy isn’t everything, but we’re a team with a great dynamic, so I think having a strong character is actually important to being a Washington Capital. I once saw an interview where Bradley talked about his love of fast food. He said he’d do extra workouts if he had to – whatever it took not to have to give up his beloved drive-thrus. How delightfully normal!
He also has a great sense of humor, an asset that fits well on a team led by famously lighthearted Alex Ovechkin. He can deadpan pretty much anything, which is more than I can say for myself, and on Wednesday he told Dan Steinberg that the Ottawa Rough Riders were going to win the Super Bowl. Is that rich or what?
But other than his fabulous sound bites, what makes fans love Bradley? I asked my Dad, a habitual early adopter who swears he’s been singing Bradley’s praises since before it was cool. “He’s too big for his britches in the most endearing way," he said. "He doesn’t care that he’s going to lose the fight, he takes one for the team. I’ll bet his teammates love him for that. He wins the moral victory in every fight, as far as I’m concerned.”
And if I may gush for one more paragraph, he’s got a great cause he’s working on. In 2009, Bradley did an interview with National Geographic’s Green Guide in which he discussed bringing recycling bins into the Caps’ locker room, turning the guys onto reusable water bottles, and buying back his carbon output through the NHLPA Carbon Neutral Challenge.
Congratulations to Matt Bradley on his 600th NHL game.
| February 4, 2011; 12:28 PM ET
Categories: Capitals, Nicole Weissman | Tags: Capitals, Nicole Weissman
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