As the Capitals prepared for their home opener on Saturday a DJ made his first appearance in section 412 and began to crank through his playlist. Brett Leonhardt is already familiar to Caps fans as the team’s web site producer and one-time back-up goaltender. But now “Stretch” is spinning the mix of classic rock, Hip Hop and hockey calls that shake the Verizon Center as the Caps go through their warmups.
“The player reaction has been amazing,” Leonhardt told Caps Snaps. “Ovi came up to me and just said, ‘That was sick.’ He kept saying, ‘Same, every game.’ To have the team’s captain be supportive of it that made me feel really good.”
Literally overnight, the DJ routine that Leonhardt had planned to mark special occasions had become a regular feature of the Caps home games.
As a kid growing up in Baden, Ontario, Leonhardt played hockey. But he also played the guitar and drums, listened to Nirvana, collected tapes and CD’s and had his own rock band: “With It”. He was introduced to Hip Hop DJs when he caught the opening acts at a Beastie Boys show in Toronto.
“I thought it was the most amazing thing watching them do this and seeing the crowd react,” he said. “A buddy that I worked with had a DJ set. Right around high school is when I really got into it. It was hard to collect, to go back and collect records. But I found that every town I would go into I would always go into record shops. I would also get my friends who had parents that were trying to get rid of vinyl, I would go through their collection and look for stuff.”
Leonhardt tried out his DJ skills this summer when the front office staff took a boat ride on the Potomac. Mike Wurman, the Director of Game Entertainment, suggested that Leonhardt take on the warm-ups. Leonhardt drafted a few 15 minute playlists and a DJ star was born.
“I took Rob Weber’s goal calls from 30 years ago—famous goal calls in Caps history—and put it to some instrumental songs to try to get the crowd’s attention,” he recalled. “I first thing I did was a remix of “Teenage Wasteland” by The Who. So I took a classic song and kind of put a modern beat behind it. I want to do a lot of stuff like that kind of hits the best of both worlds.”
With a team as diverse as the Caps Leonhardt can appeal to lots of musical tastes. “Having been in the locker room and traveling with the team I know what certain guys are into, and I have had many music conversations with guys,” Leonhardt said.
Nicklas Backstrom, he said, “has got one of the best tastes in music. His iPod is awesome. His had everything on there from Bob Dylan to Top 40 stuff in America. He is one guy that I always talk to on music.”
“The Russian guys like their club dance stuff,” he added. “Ovi loves American music, and I know he is really open to Rap music. He loves Hip-Hop, and I have talked to him about Russian Hip-Hop.”
“Alzner, Carlson and Fehr tweeted something the next day and that made me feel real good,” Leonhardt said, referring to his DJ home opener debut. As for Bruce Boudreau and some of the older staff, Leonhardt said, “they did not shy away from making fun of me.”
Leonhardt’s original plan was to DJ occasionally, but the players seemed fired up by the music and after the Caps beat the Devils handily on Saturday night Leonhardt decided to keep a good thing going. With 41 games during the regular season there will be many opportunities for experimentation. “I’d love to have different theme nights,” he said. “I’d love to say that we are featuring music from the iPod of a certain player. I would love to take fan requests through twitter.”
Already, he is fine-tuning the presentation. Ovechkin is generally one of the last players to leave the ice after the warms-ups. During a recent warmup the JumboTron camera focused on Ovechkin as Leonhardt played a song from Tupac, one of Ovechkin’s favorite artists.
“The song was called ‘All Eyez on Me,’ Leonhardt said. “So I thought it was pretty fitting.