An amusing story has circulated through the hockey blogosphere and media over the past couple of days. Brett Leonhardt, the website producer for the Washington Capitals, is 6’7″ and used to play D-III college hockey as a goaltender. Well, the injury bug has resulted in the loss of starter Jose Theodore and back-up Brent Johnson is dealing with a nagging hip injury. As a result, the Caps called up prospect Simeon Varlamov, but he would not make it to the game until the face-off so Leonhardt participated in warm-ups before the game against Ottawa and then sat on the bench as Johnson’s back-up netminder. Varlamov actually arrived at 10:57 during the first period so his only NHL stint did not even last an entire game, but it proved to be a great media story.
So why am I telling you this story? There are a couple of reasons.
First, it’s to be ready for anything. While most sports PR practitioners or other individuals working in sport will have the chance to be a back-up goaltender or assist the team on the ice, court, field, diamond, etc., it’s still important to be ready for anything that could be thrown at you. The sport industry is not predictable and things change all the time. People working in Sports PR need to be flexible, willing to try new things, and have a good attitude in the process. Leonhardt proved to be quite versatile as he still did his pre-game podcast before heading to the locker room and gearing up with the players he typically covers for the team website.
Second, it was the head of media relations (Nate Ewell) who pointed out Leonhardt’s past when the Caps were short a goalie last season for a practice. You never know when seemingly random tidbits of information may prove to be useful, but it’s important to be well-connected within the organization and informed of what’s going on in all aspects of the team (on and off the ice) because you never know when it may be really useful and even a great story to pitch to the media.
Ewell comments on the unique story from his perspective on the Caps’ media relations blog Welcome to the Show:
It’s the kind of lightning-in-a-bottle story that you are lucky to be around from a PR perspective, because it’s an easy sell. In terms of being a unique and unexpected story, I can only compare it to two things I’ve worked on: when Chad Alban, a goalie at Michigan State, scored a goal in a game and when Alex Ovechkin scored “The Goal” in Phoenix. …
The story will continue, of course, as Brett keeps making the media rounds. Good Morning America even made an inquiry, but backed off when they learned that he didn’t actually get into the game. He’ll be calling in to NHL Home Ice on XM/Sirius (his second XM appearance this week) at 4:10 p.m. for the Live from Wayne Gretzky’s radio show. He’ll also be on set at Comcast tonight at 6 p.m. to preview the Caps-Canadiens game.
Great story for the Washington Capitals and Brett Leonhardt and it’s certainly been enjoyable following the buzz around the situation.