Driving home last night from the Fort Dupont Ice Arena, I had the heat on full blast. My feet were partially numb from watching Donald Brashear skate with a legion of youth hockey players. The chill in the Ft. Dupont air, the sweet sound of skate blades carving the ice; it felt like the rinks of my youth, and I was aching to strap on skates and hit the ice.
My own shirt-and-tie uniform, combined with standing on concrete, wasn’t the best strategy to keep warm last night . . . Zut alors! it was cold, prompting even Brashear to observe how much colder it was at Fort Dupont than he’d expected.
First Brashear joined the Kids on Ice to give some coaching tips, pass the puck for shooting drills, and chat with the kids.
He even took a shot or two at netminder Dan Callahan, a Bishop O’Connell High School player who was helping out by tending goal for the Kids on Ice. At one point Brashear skated up to Callahan, miming goalie moves. I asked Callahan about the netminding advice: “He told me to come out square and stay with the shooter, not get distracted.” Nothing about dropping the gloves? Callahan laughed, “Nope, nothing like that.”
Next Brashear skated with the District’s only public high school hockey team, the Wilson Tigers. He joined the team in their drills, and fired slapshots on their three goalies as the rest of the skaters lined up to watch. Each save against the NHLer brought appreciative stick-taps from the goalies’ teammates. At one point Brashear skated in on a breakaway and the netminder denied him, much to Brashear’s good-natured chagrin; a few minutes later he charged in again, this time flipping the puck into the net with his stick between his skates to oohs and ahs.
I spoke with Wilson Coach Adam Davis afterward; Davis expressed his gratitude for Brashear’s visit, but like a good coach he already seemed more focused on his team’s practice and their game against St. John’s in Wheaton Tuesday night.
Wilson’s Paul Koring — one could call him the McPhee to Davis’s Boudreau — said of the visit, “Brashear showed a genuine interest, explained things well and with just the right mix of instruction and humor. I’m sure these promotional duties can be tiresome but he was very patient, funny, and kind . . . When a bunch of teenagers are impressed, you know something is special.”
One young skater best summed up Brashear’s appearance with this inadvertent rhyme: “He’s tough on the ice, but he’s really nice.”
Donald Brashear: the biggest, baddest nice guy in the NHL.