Young Washington Capitals fan Keelan Moxley was standing near the ice before her team’s playoff game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday, watching warmups, when Capitals winger Brett Connolly noticed her and tried to toss her a puck. A man behind her caught the puck and gave it to the boy next to Keelan instead. Disappointment immediately registered on the 6-year-old’s face. Connolly, hoping to reach his intended target, retrieved another puck. He hit the glass, as if to say, “It’s for her.” The same guy caught it and gave it to the boy on the other side of her. Keelan didn’t know what to do. But Connolly did. He went back and got a third puck, pointed to her, and lofted it over the glass. The third time was the charm. The man finally gave the puck to Keelan, who was overjoyed.
The entire sequence was caught by NBC’s cameras and recapped by the broadcast team.
“That father orchestrated that, because only the cute little girl was going to get it,” the announcer said — apparently assuming that the man who had caught each puck was the children’s dad. “He made sure all three of his kids got a puck.”
Show this video to every pro athlete today pic.twitter.com/bU6Iuls9jA
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) April 16, 2018
Before the commentary, it was a cute moment. After the family dynamic was assumed, it went viral.
I know because I tweeted out the NHL’s footage on Monday morning at 9:43 a.m. Since then, the video has been retweeted more than 92,000 times, and has drawn more than 305,000 likes. I’ve tweeted more than 130,000 times since I joined Twitter in 2009 and this is the tweet that has had the most engagement.
The tweet has been seen on Twitter more than 14 million times, according to the site’s analytics, and the video itself has been watched more than 7.1 million times.
But what’s more telling is the fact that the tweet was interacted with more than 1.6 million times and drew more than 2,200 comments — including this one from someone with the handle @hollyrene44: “I know I’m supposed to focus on the positive of the situation,” she tweeted. “But I hate this video. So many parallels to be made here for females who love sports.” “Holly Rene” has 238 followers. Her comment was liked 6,900 times.
I didn’t shoot the video. I just tweeted it. But seeing how it went viral, I felt some responsibility to do a follow up.
I found a woman on Twitter who said she was the mother of Keelan, who is an only child. So I reached out to her in an attempt to get the real story.
As it turns out, Keelan is the daughter of Lauren and Andrew Moxley. She didn’t really have a choice about becoming a Capitals fan. Andrew, who would sit in his parents’ car as a youngster listening to game broadcasts, is a lifelong Caps fan. Lauren didn’t know much about hockey when she married Andrew, but became a fan. And so rooting for Washington became Keelan’s preordained fate.
“It was only her second NHL game,” Lauren told me of Keelan, who already plays hockey herself. “We wanted to take her to a playoff game.”
And so, before the game, Andrew, Lauren and Keelan headed from their seats down toward the ice to get as close as they could.
Andrew, who didn’t want to take up space or block the kids’ view, stopped a few rows up and let Lauren accompany their daughter down to the glass. After a couple of minutes, the now-famous moment happened.
“I was standing near her and I saw it all happen, but I never thought the guy who was catching the pucks had any ill intentions,” Lauren said. “She’s an only child. We didn’t know the other people around us. I couldn’t believe it when I saw on Facebook and Twitter what it had become.”
Lauren then spent time on social media trying to set the record straight. Some people noticed, but most people missed it.
One who did notice was Connolly’s wife, Katrina, who reached out to Lauren on Facebook.
“She said they thought Keelan is very sweet and that they are happy she finally got a puck,” Lauren said. “That Brett was very determined to get it to her. They also said they want to send her a little gift once Brett returns from Columbus, to thank her for being a good sport and supporting the team.”
On Monday, Keelan’s first-grade teacher showed the class the video. On Tuesday, Keelan brought her puck to school for show and tell.
“Brett has definitely earned a lifelong fan,” Lauren said. “Keelan can’t stop talking about him.”
And the social media world can’t stop talking about Keelan.