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Posted at 9:49 PM ET, 11/18/2010

Braden Holtby on his Holtbyisms

By Dan Steinberg


Braden Holtby may be a 21-year old with all of two NHL starts (and another soon to come), but he already has spawned a new hockey word: Holtbyisms. The goalie's pre-game and in-game routines became sort of legendary in Hershey last season, and they've already earned admirers during his brief stint in Washington. (For the background, see RMNB here, here and here.)

"I think they're such good fans in Hershey and Washington, they know what to look for," the young goalie told me this week. "They know a lot about hockey, and I guess when you know a lot about it you start to recognize those kind of things."

What kind of things? A few examples:

The Holtby Shuffle: Perhaps the most popular of Holtby's quirks, this involves the goaltender skating aggressively in place during the National Anthem in what looks like some sort of frantic exercise routine for middle-aged Floridian housewives. See above.

"My biggest fear on the ice, I guess, is getting flat-footed, because my game relies so much on being aggressive," he explained. "I don't know, I think if I can keep moving, it limits my thoughts, and those negative thoughts don't creep in as much. It's basically just another routine, go through the same things over in your head. You're looking at the net, visualizing certain saves. During the anthem, it's basically the only time you're on the ice and it's perfectly quiet, almost. Other than singing in the background."

As for the Holtby Shuffle name, "whatever makes people happy," he said.

The Pad Pound: This occurs out of sight, with Holtby slamming his stick into his pads before taking the ice in the dressing room or hallway.

"It's pretty loud," Karl Alzner told me. "It's hard not to notice."

"When I do it right, yeah, it's pretty loud," Holtby agreed. "I don't know why I do that. That's something that I've done for years in the dressing room. I think it probably annoys some people."

The Roy Routine: Russian Machine Never Breaks, perhaps the world's foremost authority on Holtbyisms, has reports of Holtby consistently hitting all the posts with his stick and then flipping a Gatorade bottle backwards into his glove at the conclusion of every period.

"I don't know why I do that, either," Holtby said. "Patrick Roy used to do that, and I guess that's something I just stuck with, because I did everything the same as him when I was growing up. Some of the things were bound to stick after a while."

Indeed, Holtby said he also modeled his aggressive goaltending style after Roy's.

The Pre-Game Catch: Dozens and dozens of NHL guys - including many Caps - regularly play pre-game soccer juggling games in the arena hallways. Holtby and Alzner instead have a catch, using baseball gloves and a baseball.

It started during the playoffs in Hershey, and since the team was winning they kept it up. Both men grew up playing baseball, with Holtby saying he was actually better at that sport, but lacked high-level coaching in midwestern Canada. He still plays fantasy baseball and misses the game, and he throws curves and knuckleballs and the whole bit to Alzner, who also mixes in ground balls and two-hoppers by the Verizon Center zamboni tunnel.

"He's a player," Alzner said. "You can tell. As soon as he picks the ball up, you can tell."

The Water Squirt: In one of his more impressive routines, Holtby squirts water out of his bottle and toward the boards during stoppages in play, picking out one specific drop from the spray and following it to the ground with his eyes.

"Actually, that looks a little weird," he admitted. "If you can focus in on something, it sharpens up your vision a lot more."

I asked him if this was a common trick for goalies, and he said he didn't think so.

"I think everyone else is scared of looking weird," he said. "I don't really care, as long as it helps me stop the puck."

Indeed, that seems to be the theme of the Holtbyisms, which go far beyond what I've listed here. The young goalie said they aren't superstitions; they just help him stay consistent, and help him feel comfortable.

"It comes with the job," he said with a laugh. "If you're a goalie, everyone thinks you're' weird, so you might as well just go with it."

By Dan Steinberg  | November 18, 2010; 9:49 PM ET
Categories:  Caps  
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Next: Lorenzo Alexander's special teams hit

Comments

OK, this is a pretty good bog post.

Posted by: ncromcr | November 19, 2010 1:25 AM | Report abuse

This makes my rituals seem at least a LITTLE less crazy when I watch a game!

-Stay seated for entire period...never get up.
-Slap table whenever our goalie makes a good save.
-Only pick up tv remote with left hand...and change channel during each commercial to pre-picked movie turn back once to check...observe which commercial is on, turn back to movie for a bit then back to game.

PK ritual...very important.

-special tap when they clear the puck
-count down from 34-30 seconds then say "30 seconds guy 30 seconds (look back up to see 28 seconds on clock)
-It is really bad luck to see the PK clock tick down to 1 minute!

Yes I realize how incredibly crazy this sounds but it is really just habit now and I don't really realize I am always doing it. I am in the process of slowly toneing this down so my friend and family don't have me commited!

Posted by: capscoach | November 19, 2010 8:55 AM | Report abuse

^ this guy is most definitely the one that's been jinxing the caps quest for the cup

Posted by: JohnnyBlades | November 19, 2010 9:37 AM | Report abuse

@JohnnyBlades

please note the Caps improved PK this season :)

Posted by: capscoach | November 19, 2010 9:54 AM | Report abuse

Braden Holtby for President. =) Makes him more relatable.

Posted by: LeftCoastCapsFan | November 19, 2010 11:10 AM | Report abuse

inb4 cowherd rant about holtby hating america and not standing still during the anthem.

Posted by: bryc3 | November 19, 2010 11:34 AM | Report abuse

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