'All the stars lined up': Proud parents of Braden Holtby travel from Sask. to see son win Stanley Cup
Washington Capitals goalie hails from Marshall, Sask.
The Stanley Cup win for the Washington Capitals was a win for Saskatchewan as well.
Goaltender Braden Holtby, who grew up in Marshall, Sask. — a village 240 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon — was one of the team's most buzzed-about players during the series against the Vegas Golden Knights.
For his mother, Tammi Holtby, his hockey fame still hasn't sunk in.
"It's hard for us to believe because he's still just Braden to us," Tammi said. "He's become a well-known name in the league and we're so pleased and proud about that for sure.
"He's worked very hard and all along the way he's kind of been the underdog for a lot of his hockey career and finally is shining through, and because of his personality, and being able to work hard and concentrate, he has taken every opportunity that's been given to him and made the best of it."
After losing Game 1, the Capitals won four straight against the Vegas Golden Knights to win the series. Holtby bested three-time Stanley Cup champion goalie Marc-André Fleury and allowed the Knights just eight goals over the last four games.
It's pretty amazing to see your child have all their dreams come true.- Tammi Holtby
After some hiccups, Washington coach Barry Trotz didn't give the 28-year-old the starting-goaltender position for the series, but he earned his way back.
"He understood that he wasn't going to start in the playoffs," said Trotz. "And he said, 'If I get a chance to go back in, I'm gonna be really good for you.' And he was."
Tammi and Holtby's father, Greg, were following the team, going back and forth between Washington and Vegas to see the games.
Their friends and family joined them in Vegas to see the big win Thursday.
"It was a little surreal for us," said Tammi. "All the stars lined up and it was perfect.
"It's pretty amazing to see your child have all their dreams come true and to lift that cup and see how happy he was. There's hardly any words that can describe it, actually."
Skating through the Saskatchewan winters
Tammi said Braden had been talking about getting into the NHL and winning the Stanley Cup since he was three years old.
The Holtbys farm just north of Marshall, which is where he first started skating. He later joined a league in Lashburn and went on to play in Lloydminster as he got older.
Braden's father coached him up until he hit the bantam age group, which Tammi said saved her from attending 6 a.m. practices. Throughout the years, his love of the sport remained.
"We never once had to force him to go to the rink.," Tammi said.
"I know there were a couple of big storms that hit northern Saskatchewan and he'd say, 'Let's go.' I don't think he'd have cared if we had to take him there in a tractor, he was getting there."
Braden never gave up on his Stanley Cup dream, getting drafted by the Capitals in 2008. He made his debut on NHL ice in 2010.
Not only was Braden part of the winning team, many have said he played an instrumental part in the victory.
He was a contender for the Conn Smythe Trophy, which recognizes the playoff MVP, with endorsements from both Don Cherry and Ron MacLean. In the end, the trophy went to captain Alex Ovechkin.
Tammi said that while her son would've been honoured, nothing would've been as sweet as winning the Cup with his team.
Throughout the series, Tammi said Braden was quiet and focused.
Once the game was over, she said they rushed down on the ice to congratulate him.
"The first thing he told me after he gave me a hug was 'Breathe mom, just breathe.' I think that was his way of telling me just to enjoy it," Tammi said.
Braden, his wife Brandi and their two children, Ben and Belle, will be returning to their lake house in Saskatchewan for the summer, not far from the farm. Tammi said she's looking forward to seeing them and continuing to celebrate.
As far as hopes for the future, Tammi isn't sure what her NHL-player son has in store.
"But I can guarantee you one thing, Braden will be looking at the next cup," she said.