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Saying Goodbye to Braden Holtby

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Today we bid farewell to a Caps legend in the making.

Philadelphia Flyers v Washington Capitals Photo by Mitchell Layton/NHLI via Getty Images

As sports fans, we are used to the transient nature of professional athletes. Salary cap issues and trades and the simple need for some new scenery - all can be reasons for us to have to say goodbye to our heroes as they move on to a new team, a new city, and a new fanbase.

But you’ll forgive us a moment of sentimentality on this particular day, because even knowing and understanding this doesn’t mean it’s always easy.

Some goodbyes are just harder than others.

And as we prepare to send Braden Holtby off into the free agency wilderness... this is one of those impossibly tough goodbyes. Perhaps one of the toughest we’ve had to face in a long time.

It’s not just that Holtby was a part of the legendary 2018 Stanley Cup championship team, although that’s plenty of reason to feel sad in and of itself. He was an integral part of that squad, a huge reason why they even got out of the first round let alone brought home the Cup. He stepped in and salvaged a near-disaster against the Blue Jackets, stood tall in a tight overtime clincher in Pittsburgh, engineered back-to-back shutouts against the potent Tampa offense and was the author of The Save.

But it isn’t just that.

It’s not just the fact that Holtby has had a pretty great career as a Cap, with accomplishments that have stretched far beyond that one magical summer. It’s not because he has more wins and has played more games in net for the Caps than anyone not named Olie Kolzig, or that he’s become not just the best playoff goalie in franchise history but also one of the best in the league over the last decade. And it’s not just because we watched him grow from a young, fiery prospect (Evgeny Kuznetsov’s leg can attest to just how fiery) to an emergency replacement to a playoff surprise to a Vezina trophy-winning franchise netminder and Stanley Cup champion.

No... it’s not just that, either.

And it isn’t just because he and his family have become important voices in the community, although the importance of him using his voice and then backing it up with actions time and time again can’t be underestimated. His participation in DC’s Pride Parade, his refusal to visit a Trump White House, his fundraising for racial equality, and his simple willingness to speak up when those around him were and continue to be silent. All were hallmarks of his time as a Capital - as they were for his wife, Brandi, whose voice could be heard just as loud if not louder every time he spoke up, and she, too, will be missed around here.

It is, in fact, all of these things together - the longevity, the talent, the heart, the championship, the conscience - that makes this goodbye so damn difficult. Even understanding why he has to go, and knowing that it is likely the best next step for both player and team, doesn’t make this situation any easier.

But sports are a business. Players come, players go, and eventually their time with a team becomes nothing more than a few paragraphs in the record book, a couple of anecdotes, a highlight reel on YouTube, a throwback jersey pulled out from the back of the closet. Soon enough Holtby will have a new team and become just a part of Capitals’ history... albeit a pretty big part of it.

So we say goodbye to Holtby and wish him well wherever he may end up (just not a Metropolitan Division team, yeah?), and eventually hope that this won’t feel so sad.

Thanks for the memories, the passion, and the trophy, Braden.

Forever a Cap.