Brooks Laich learned a lot growing up on a corner lot in Wawota, Saskatchewan. He learned a work ethic and sense of community from parents Harold and Jane — and the value of a well-kept lawn.
“The flowers were weeded, the lawn was mowed. The yard always looked nice, and they took pride in it,” Laich said. “I own my home, I’m part of the community, part of the neighborhood. I like doing it myself. I take pride in it. It’s my house. I want to look good.”
Pride might be the word Laich uses most often to talk about his game with the Washington Capitals and his life. An all-around hockey player who is earning his six-year, $27 million contract through playing in every situation, Laich doesn’t just want to be a faceless hockey player who fades into the background.
“I love playing in Washington. And playing in Washington doesn’t mean you just come here, collect a paycheck and play hockey,” Laich said. “I think with our team, you’re expected to be — at least this is how I grew up — you’re living in a community, you’re expected to be a part of it.”
To Laich, who planned on spending Thanksgiving at his neighbor’s dad’s house, community is not just an empty word. He generally prefers to be a private person, but he and his girlfriend, Amanda Hudson, like to be actual people.
Sitting in the visiting dressing room at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Laich talked about cleaning his yard of leaves on an upcoming off-day — sounding like he really took pride in his yard work as much as his penalty-killing.
“It’s also a bit of therapy for me. It gets my mind off stuff at the rink for an hour-and-a-half or two hours on Sunday morning,” he said. “I’m not thinking about hockey, I’m not thinking about the stresses of last night’s game — if I missed that opportunity, if I made a mistake. I’m just living a normal life.
Asked about being among the Caps’ most popular players despite not having the flashy style of an Alex Ovechkin, Laich talked about everything except hockey.
“I know my neighbors, I know my neighborhood, I know the people around town. In D.C., it’s not just hanging out with teammates and that’s my whole life — I’ve grown roots in the community,” he said. “I own a home there; I get involved in charity work there. That’s stuff I learned from my mom and dad. If people appreciate that, then that’s great.”