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Sent to the Minors

February 19, 2013

After 16 NHL seasons, former Washington Capital Andrew “Bruno” Brunette has hung up his skates and is retiring. It’s not uncommon to hear story-after-story of acts of kindness from NHL players around the league, as they’re some of the most grounded pro athletes around. But this tale is a lesson that has stuck with me nearly 16 years later.

As a fresh-faced intern for the Caps PR department, one day it became my job to shuttle a player to his apartment then to the airport. After a few games in “The Show,” Andrew Brunette had been reassigned to the Caps minor league team. Not the most pleasant circumstance to meet somebody for the first time and sit in a car for a couple hours.  And to put the icing on the cake, his girlfriend had just arrived 12 hours earlier to spend a few weeks. But here’s the thing—despite the obvious professional set back, Bruno was courteous, polite, and downright nice the entire ride. He engaged in conversation and probably answered some stupid questions from a lowly intern.

36 hours later, I’m part of a two-car caravan driving Bruno’s SUV and the SUV of another player sent back to the minors that same day. The players had to fly out quickly to make a game, and now we we’re tasked with getting their vehicles to them…in Portland, Maine. After 10 hours or so on the road, we finally arrive at the Portland arena where the two players meet us to retrieve their vehicles.  In chatting briefly with Bruno in the garage of the Portland arena, he learns that I am a little unclear on the details of my flight home. This was a time before smart phones, dumb phones or mobile phones of any sort, and all I know is that there is a plane ticket waiting for me somewhere at the Portland airport. That was the extent of my information. Sensing there is a chance I might be stranded for a bit, Bruno hands me his home phone number, and insists that if I run into any issues I call him and I can spend the night on his couch. This is how he treated an intern he had just met two days earlier.

It’s a small lesson I’ve always kept with me—treat everyone with the same respect and kindness, despite whatever setbacks you may personally be experiencing. Congrats to Andrew Brunette, who went on to play 1,100 games and tally 733 points in his NHL career.

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