Anytime a straight professional athlete voices support for the LGBT community, it reconfirms the notion that straight allies are an important part of creating change. When that same athlete steps forward with actions, they become a role model that could have a profound impact.
Braden Holtby was raised mainly in Marshall, Saskatchewan, Canada and was drafted by the Washington Capitals in 2008. He spent several years with the Caps development teams before he was called to wrap up the 2011-2012 season with the Capitals. His season-ending performances elevated him to the starting goalie position in the following season.
His path to support for the LGBT community began with the Human Rights Campaign and led to Holtby and his wife Brandi attending the Capital Pride parade as spectators in 2015, and then marching the next two years. In 2017, he was named the Washington Capitals’ LGBT representative in conjunction with the NHL’s partnership with You Can Play.
The Blade caught up with Holtby just as the 2017-2018 NHL season was kicking off this month.
WASHINGTON BLADE: Amazing stats for you in the 2016-2017 season. Top-five in the NHL in wins, shutouts, goals-against average and save percentage, all culminating in the William M. Jennings trophy. You were already coming off a great season from 2015-2016. Do you change anything up to keep the momentum going from year to year?
BRADEN HOLTBY: Not really. I think we go day to day and try to improve our game and our team. If you’re making big adjustments, it’s usually not because things are going well. So, we just try to maintain.
BLADE: You played as a forward and as a goaltender up through your peewee years and have said that it made you the goalie you are today. Recently, in a Caps pre-season practice, you were seen taking shots out in front of the net. Does brushing up on your offensive instincts help to hone your defensive skills?
HOLTBY: Yes. Anytime you can work on skating or puck handling it helps. It’s fun and it was one of those things where we had too many goalies and not enough skaters so I decided why not? It’s fun because you get to see the game from a different perspective and learn a couple new things and appreciate how hard it is for those guys.
BLADE: The D.C. area is not known as a hotbed for ice hockey, yet the Caps have an enthusiastic fan base. Was that a surprise for you when you came to Washington?
HOLTBY: I think so. I mean I didn’t know much about the city to begin with, being a prairie boy from Canada. The fans here are great and they love to bring energy to the game. They’re always positive when you see them in the streets and that’s not always the case when it comes to professional sports. You can see that it’s growing, youth hockey is growing and people here really like the game and bring a lot of energy to the rink to make it exciting. That makes it fun.
BLADE: Your wife Brandi helped expand your views on the LGBT community which has led to your support. What are some things you have taken from your interactions with the community?
HOLTBY: We’ve marched in the parade a couple years and we went to it the year before those. It’s a lot of fun anytime you can show support. We always believe and we parent our kids to treat everyone with respect and the same and not worry about differences. Equality is the best way to put it across the board. We try and do as much stuff (as we can) with the HRC committee because they do great work and obviously You Can Play is more connected to our sport. There’s so many people who are working hard that any time you can show that support and show that a person in the public eye believes the same thing — that everyone should be treated equally, is an opportunity that we should take advantage of.
BLADE: Earlier this year, you were named the Capitals’ LGBT representative in conjunction with the NHL’s partnership with You Can Play. What can you share about the experience so far?
HOLTBY: We started this late last season and I think moving forward we can hopefully be more active with that. (You Can Play co-founder) Patrick Burke has done such an amazing job and he does it better than anybody else so I try to lend my support and if he needs help with anything, he knows I’m there. He definitely knows what he’s doing.
BLADE: You grew up around music with your mom Tami singing in several bands and you play guitar. What’s on your music playlist right now?
HOLTBY: Right now, the latest ones I’ve been listening too are Michael Kiwanuka and Foy Vance. I’ve been listening to their stuff just recently. (I like) Leon Bridges. Sturgill Simpson is probably my favorite act that’s out right now.