LAS VEGAS – Hockey fans who are old enough to remember will recall Jim Craig, Team USA’s goalie, with a flag wrapped around him, looking for his father in the stands after the Miracle on Ice. Craig was skating around the ice asking, “Where’s my father?” and when he finally found Donald Craig, the two had an epic embrace.
Well, when the Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup on Thursday night, another American hero was looking for his father. While T.J. Oshie was celebrating and doing interviews, his head was casting around the T-Mobile Arena looking for his father, Tim. “My two little girls are here and my wife,” Oshie said. “My father is here!” Not long after that, the two were united in a hug that was so real and so heartfelt that there were no dry eyes in the vicinity.
You see, Tim Oshie is a 53-year-old man who suffers from early onset Alzheimer’s disease. It’s actually a disease called Familial Alzheimer’s and it’s every bit as depressing as it sounds. It almost always strikes far earlier in life, sometimes as early as the 30s. Only about 200 family lines carry the mutation that causes it and the Oshies are one of them. Tim Oshie’s father had it and died young. So did his sister. And now he is dealing with it the best he can. (For more on the Oshie family, check this story that previously ran in The Hockey News and on thn.com.)
“What a great human being, what a great man, what a great father,” T.J. said of Tim. “Some things slip his mind these days. Ah, here we go…(pauses and wipes his eyes), but I think this one is going to be seared in there. I don’t think any disease is going to take this one away from him.”
If anyone deserved to win a Stanley Cup, it’s T.J. Oshie. Anyone who has played with or coached him describes him as a throwback, the kind of player that every team wants to have. Despite all the obstacles that have been thrown in front of him, Oshie remains optimistic and full of life. He has a younger sister who, deprived of oxygen to her brain at birth because the umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck resulted in an intellectual disability that requires constant care and leaves her unable to work. Just weeks after his shootout heroics in Sochi, Oshie’s partner (now wife) gave birth to a daughter with gastroschisis, a rare condition in which the intestines are outside the body. She had to have immediate surgery and Oshie could not hold his daughter for the first week of her life. Lyla is now happy and healthy as well as an older sister to Leni.
When the Capitals were faced with the decision whether or not to re-sign Oshie after last season, some of the players appealed to GM Brian MacLellan, saying Oshie’s absence both in the dressing room and on the ice would be impossible to fill. And even though it cost them the services of Marcus Johansson, they signed Oshie to an eight-year deal worth $5.75 million per season. Oshie’s goal totals dropped from 33 to 18 and his points from 56 to 47, but he was an absolute force in the playoffs, not only producing points but also providing the kind of energy and physical play that is so important in the post-season.
“T.J. has got a lot of game,” said Capitals coach Barry Trotz. “He’s so competitive and he’s got a physical element, he always has. He’s got a little old-school in him. He has the new-school skill with the old-school mentality and I think that’s a great combination. He’s dogged on the puck and on plays. He never gives up.”
Undoubtedly that was something he learned from his father along the way. Tim was diagnosed five years ago and while the disease has progressed, it has not done so with the speed that doctors had expected.
“What a positive guy,” Oshie said. “All the obstacles he has to deal with day in and day out, he still stays positive. He tells me after every game how proud he is of me. A lot of the character I get and a lot of the stuff I try to bring to this team I get from him. He’s going to take a long drink out of that big thing over there.”
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