It's always been my contention - based on my years as a sportswriter, along with other interactions over time - that hockey players are the most down-to-earth people among professional athletes. I think it's partly because they don't make the astronomical salaries that players in other sports make - no one on the Wild is getting a third of Joe Mauer or Kevin Garnett-type money - and in part because many of them grow up in small Canadian (and Minnesota) towns, in an atmosphere that helps to keep them humble when they hit the big time.
I've seen numerous examples of it over the years; NHLers who take time to stop and chat with folks outside the Xcel Energy Center, or visit with people at local restaurants. For example, I know the Wild's Brent Burns has had members of the arena staff over to his house to see his collection of exotic pets.
Now comes another great example. Thursdy night the Washington Capitals suffered a heartbreaking Game 7 playoff loss. After winning the President's Trophy for the league's best regular-season record, the Caps took a 3-1 lead in their first-round playoff series against Montreal. Then Montreal goalie Jaroslav Halak got hot, and Montreal won three straight games to take the series, including a 2-1 win Thursday night in D.C.
After the game, a mother and daughter - two Capitals fans on their way home from the game - blew a tire on the Roosevelt Bridge. They called AAA, and were told they could have a long wait. Moments later, a vehicle pulled over and the driver got out to ask if he could help. The driver turned out to be Brooks Laich of the Capitals, still in his suit. Laich ended up changing the tire while talking hockey with these season-ticket holders. The entire story, including a photo of Laich changing the tire is here.
Somehow I don't think you'd ever hear a story like this involving LeBron James or Chad Ochocinco.