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Former Caps broadcaster Ron Weber honored by Hockey Hall of Fame

Ron Weber is shown at his final game in 1997. (Rich Lipski/The Washington Post)

Ron Weber, the former longtime play-by-play voice of the Capitals, will receive the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award for outstanding contributions as a hockey broadcaster, the Hockey Hall of Fame announced today.

Weber broadcasted the first Capitals game and every one after that until his retirement on April 13, 1997 -- a total of 1,939 games.

An excerpt from the release:

When the Washington Capitals joined the NHL as an expansion team in 1974, Baltimore Clippers play-by-play announcer Ron Weber was hired to be the voice of the NHL's newest franchise. The Lock Haven, Pennsylvania native called every one of the team's record-breaking 67 defeats that year. Over the next 23 years Weber never missed a regular season or playoff broadcast, talking Capitals fans through 1,936 consecutive games.
"Ron has been a key contributor to the growth of NHL hockey interest in the D.C. area over his two-plus decades as the original voice of the Capitals," said Chuck Kaiton, President, NHL Broadcasters' Association. "He is very worthy of this honour."

Weber and hockey writer Marc de Foy, recipient of the Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award for hockey journalism, will be honored at a luncheon presentation on November 8. The 2010 Hockey Hall of Fame Inductees will be announced on June 22.

After the jump, a look back through the archives:

Voice of the Capitals prepares to sign off after 23 years
April 13, 1997
By Leonard Shapiro
Washington Post Staff Writer

These are not the best of times for Ron Weber, the only radio voice the Washington Capitals have employed since Day One of the franchise. Even as he tries to cope with the bittersweet moments in the countdown to the end of his career with the team that has consumed so many of his waking hours over the past 23 years, he also has been forced to deal with a far more painful loss.

Two weeks ago, on Good Friday, his mother, Jeannette Weber, passed away at age 93. The next night, the Capitals had scheduled a program during their game with the Philadelphia Flyers to honor Weber, and he insisted that it not be canceled. He knew some of his friends had made plans to be there, and he wanted the show to go on, even if he couldn't really enjoy it.

"Losing my mom, that's been the worst part of it, no question," he was saying somberly an hour before last Sunday's game against the Florida Panthers. "The job? Sure it hurts. But Mom . . . it's not even close."

Listening to Weber, 63, on the radio these days, there is not the slightest trace anything could be wrong. For all his quirks -- his penchant for some of the most arcane stats in sports, his legendary tacky taste in clothing, his pride in having seen every Capitals game in the team's history -- Weber is a professional.

If you are counting, as Weber always does, the Florida game was No. 1,936 for both him and the Capitals. But after the Capitals finally were eliminated last night from the playoff hunt, tonight's final regular season game in Buffalo -- No. 1,939 -- will be his last on the radio.

That is not his choice. Two years ago he was told by club officials he won't name that he no longer would be employed in the Capitals' radio booth. But owner Abe Pollin interceded and said he could stay on until the team moved into its new arena downtown, scheduled to open next season. With a fancy, state-of-the-art facility, the Capitals would seek a fresh voice as well, perhaps his current partner, Joe Beninati, 30, who also does games on television.

No decisions have been made except one: Weber will not be back. There will be no reprieve from the owner's suite.

"When Abe stepped in, and thinking I was out, that extra two years seemed like it was going to be forever," Weber said. "It was truly a message from heaven. But now the two years are up. I'd like to have continued. I don't really know why they don't want me to. No one's ever told me, and I don't really want to play guessing games."

The team will only say through spokesman Matt Williams that "he's been terrific for a long time," but that "the move to the new building seems like the natural time to do it."

Said Weber: "If this had happened 10 years ago, or even five, it could have been worse. But now, I'm in a stage of life where I don't have to work. I can even see maybe two to five years down the trail, I'll say that was the best thing that ever happened to me. Then again, I can also see the other side, too."

The other side is telling him that he is still too young to quit. He would like to keep working. Baseball was always his first love, and he has done all the major sports at one time or another. Wishfully thinking out loud, he'd love to do play-by-play on local radio or television at the pro or college level, even if it's only part time.

Weber can still remember telling his wife, Mary Jane, in 1974 that becoming the Capitals' first radio broadcaster "was a job that's not a steppingstone, it's a job I can see keeping the rest of my working life. I always wanted to do one team's games, and that's what I've been able to do."

In addition to attending every game, Weber points out that he was on the air at some point, even if the Capitals were preempted by the Orioles or Bullets, for all but one game. That was the night the Gulf War started, and though he filed several progress reports, he is not certain they ever got on the air.

He also holds the club record for the longest time spent in the booth for a single night -- a 4-3 four-overtime loss in the seventh game of a playoff series against the New York Islanders on April 18, 1987. Weber was on the air 7 hours 4 minutes -- and never had a bathroom break.

He has more numbers.

"I have known 299 Capitals, and of that number, only a dozen, maybe even less than six, were jerks," he said. "The hockey players have been terrific. There are just more nice human beings than in any other sport."

He got along famously with all but one of the Capitals' 10 coaches, whom he also will not name, though it was well known at the time that Weber and Tom McVie (1975-78) should not have been left alone in a small room. He was particularly partial to the Murray brothers, Bryan (1981-90) and Terry (1990-94), and was especially touched when Terry Murray, now coaching the Flyers, climbed the stairs up to the booth after the game to congratulate him on the night Weber was honored.

He also was moved by a note he received from Capitals General Manager David Poile after Weber's mother's death. "He said, You have left your mark on Washington hockey forever,' " Weber said. "I had never thought of it that way. I hope it's true."

As the countdown has continued, Weber keeps hearing similar sentiments from many of his fans. They have come up and shake his hand at USAir Arena, many thanking him for his years of service and his boundless enthusiasm, and for helping them understand the sport.

"There was a time when I used to say to myself, What have I done with my life? I'm telling grown people about a game boys play,' " he said. "It's not the cure for cancer. I've got a daughter who's a teacher. She's already done so much more than I have.

"But I've gotten so many letters, from shut-ins, people who can't afford to get to a lot of games. If someone feels better for it after listening, maybe I've been of service. I've made peace with that over the last few years. I really have."

By Lindsay Applebaum  |  June 1, 2010; 2:33 PM ET
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Good deal. Many of us learned hockey by listening to Weber on the radio. And he was treated shabbily by Pollin and O'Malley. Leonsis and company really haven't given him his due either. There ought to be a Ron Weber night at a game some time.........

Posted by: poguesmahone | June 1, 2010 2:52 PM | Report abuse

There are many who have done play-by-play of Washington Capitals matches...but in the entire history of the Capitals franchise there has been only one true Capitals broadcaster...and that is Ron Weber. As one of many who got turned on to hockey listening to his broadcasts, I think this is an honour that is long overdue.

Posted by: Lukashenko | June 1, 2010 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Well desererved to the highest degree.

Posted by: ridgely1 | June 1, 2010 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Agreed. Well deserved.

But who doesn't the Caps management (past and present) treat shabbily before its all over??? Webber, Fornes, Bondra, Kolzig, Theo, .... who's next? Everybody I guess.


Posted by: rblatch45 | June 1, 2010 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Always stung a little bit that the Caps finally got to the Finals the year after Weber was gone.

Have never warmed up to Kolbe at all. I guess he's refined somewhat, but he came in sounding like the NHL's answer to Jim Ross of the WWF. It was such a horrible decision at the time.

Posted by: writered21 | June 1, 2010 3:06 PM | Report abuse

I'm hoping there is an afterlife, because if there is then whoever forced Ron out of his position as Caps broadcaster (my suspicion is that it was Susan O'Malley) will burn for eternity. I learned my hockey from listening to him, since I didn't have cable TV in the 80s and was a starving student able to only attend a couple of games a year. I've met a lot of people connected with the Caps, from Pollin and Leonsis, to McPhee and Poile and many of the players, but I only truly got excited by meeting Ron. I felt doing one of those Wayne and Garth "I'm not worthy!" things. You are a class individual Mr Weber, and well deserve this honor. Kolbe isn't fit to hold your microphone

Posted by: TempusFugitRGV1 | June 1, 2010 3:36 PM | Report abuse

steve kolbe is a shmuck. The only complaint I had about Weber was, he never described what was going on during a scrum. Its like he had a big distaste for it so he'd focus on other things that had nothing to do with the game at hand. Killed you when you were listening to the radio and had to try and figure out what was going on on the ice and the crowd was going nuts :)

Posted by: cstanton1 | June 1, 2010 4:00 PM | Report abuse

"only complaint I had about Weber was..."
you can complain about ted, gmgm and BB - but not weber
ok - i'm just kidding

Posted by: Capt_Kirk_in_AZ | June 1, 2010 4:07 PM | Report abuse

lol, ok, i'll cut Ron a break. I did listen to him frequently and did enjoy the way he delivered the game over radio.

Posted by: cstanton1 | June 1, 2010 4:11 PM | Report abuse

Weber was the best. Glad to hear the HOF is recognizing him.

Posted by: eric22 | June 1, 2010 4:45 PM | Report abuse

You never want to see someone get fired and when Ron Weber was I was sad. But to replace him with a scream machine was really a slap in the faces of fans. Kolbe has calmed down--somewhat--but comparing him to Weber is almost like comparing baseball announcers to Vin Scully.

Posted by: miklosis1 | June 1, 2010 4:53 PM | Report abuse

I remember trying to listen to the first radio play by play after Ron and it was pure torture. I haven't listened to a game since. Thank goodness for NHL Center Ice. I also remember Ron in the late seventies/early eighties and his willingness to participate in off ice activities that were only remotely related to the caps just to help promote them, like emceeing an awards banquet for a local adult novice hockey league I was involved with. A true professional and a true gentleman.

Posted by: bdcberger | June 1, 2010 4:57 PM | Report abuse

I think Ron Weber missed one game in his Caps' broadcast career... I seem to remember him talking about it, I think it was because of his daughter's wedding or something family related.

since he retired or got fired, I have never listened to Kolbe.

Posted by: joek443 | June 1, 2010 5:27 PM | Report abuse

Tempus, it was O'Malley. I remember reading some articles in that period addressing the issue. She was also the one who broke up the Mike Fornes/Al Koken TV team.

Firing Ron Weber was the worst thing O'Malley ever did to the Caps - and considering the long list of possibilities for that award, that truly means something.

Posted by: gocaps2 | June 1, 2010 5:45 PM | Report abuse

I have said this frequently even when it has nothing to do with the topic at hand:

Ron Weber = THE MAN I'd say more about him, but "THE MAN" pretty much sums it up.

Steve Kolbe was God Awful. Though he has improved, he will never be more than mediocre.

The Caps need a new radio man. Anyone who knows anything about radio play-by-play knows that Steve Kolbe is not that good.

By all accounts Kolbe is a good guy - but that isn't enough.


Posted by: CF11555 | June 1, 2010 5:52 PM | Report abuse

Ron Weber was the best.

Who remembers his shtick when we played Vancouver and BOTH teams had a Greg Adams? He called them "CapAdams" and "Van Adams" - classic! That alone is HOF-worthy!

Posted by: CAP-lanta | June 1, 2010 7:07 PM | Report abuse

This article alone shows you that Leonard Shapiro is a washed up Dueschbag. Makes a top ten list of washington broadcasters and Ron Weber wasn't on it or mentioned in the article at all but chick hernandez did make top ten. WTF....You wanna be a reporter or politically correct smuck shapiro, you can't be both ? Oh yeah, you write for the post, I stand corrected. Loser Shapiro should have retired when his skills started to erode...say about when Nixon resigned...Seriously, how in the blazes can you have a top ten list of washington sportscasters and not have a guy who worked alone, was the sole voice of the team and fans for 23 years. Never missing a game...and makes the hall of fame....Gotta do alot of rooting for ole' chick to get that far down the road but not to shapiro, just be talented and a different color and he feels like he has to include you, piss on others hall of fame careers to be political correct. Yeah, Vince Scully, Mel Thompson, Ernie Harwell, George michaels, chick hernandez.....see it just rolls off the tongue naturally....YOU BLEW IT LEONARD!!!

Posted by: klangley69 | June 1, 2010 8:03 PM | Report abuse

I think it only appropriate that Ron Weber be honored by the Hockey Hall of Fame during the same season in which the Washington Capitals win their first Stanley Cup!

BRAVO Ron Weber!

P.S. to joek: Weber didn't miss a single Caps game, not one, during his 23 seasons.

Posted by: OrrCountry | June 1, 2010 10:20 PM | Report abuse

NOthing against Kolbe but Weber was class & raised a bunch of us Caps kids when there was no CSN & our parents couldn't get HTS.

Posted by: Rocc00 | June 1, 2010 10:50 PM | Report abuse

I had the pleasure of working as Ron's statistician whenever the Capitals played in Detroit, and he is one of the finest human beings to walk this earth.
Congratulations, Ron, on a well-deserved award. You earned it, my friend.
Greg Innis
Detroit Red Wings Statistician

Posted by: ginnis | June 2, 2010 9:47 AM | Report abuse

Ron Weber was the most prepared, knowledgeable, and professional broadcaster and the HOF has recognized that. Too bad Susan O'Malley wasn't that smart. Weber was an institution and he should STILL be in the booth if he wanted to be.

Kolbe is TERRIBLE. Flat out TERRIBLE, and I haven't listened to ONE FULL GAME since he took over out of spite.

BRING BACK RON WEBER! He deserves it.

Posted by: essex03 | June 2, 2010 9:48 AM | Report abuse

Ron Weber was a true voice of reason during a time when even playoff games were only found on AM radio in the 80's and into early 90's. When I couldn't get to a friend's house to watch the Caps on HTS, Ron was there.(My neighborhood didn't get cable TV until 1993!) He called a game the way Shirley Povich used to write. Nothing but elegance and class. It's a shame the way Abe Polin just threw him out the door after 1,936 consecutive games. I hope Ted and the Caps brass have something planned for him later on next year. It's a shame that the hockey HOF had to remind the D.C. area just who the hell Ron was to us back in the Capital Centre area.

Posted by: gerse | June 2, 2010 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Ron was great. I have not listened to a game on radio since he left. I don't want a Ron Weber night. I want him to be back on the air.

Posted by: sleestak3 | June 2, 2010 11:30 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Weber, I owe my interest in the game of hockey to you, my late father and the Pollins. I am so happy to hear that you have been honored by the Hockey Hall of Fame. You are truly deserving.

I'll never forget the way you used to amuse us with your bag of stats and your folksy sense of humor. Few could keep up with your wealth of hockey knowledge.

You managed to entertain us during those lean early years. Only you could keep us listening as the Canadiens, Bruins, Flyers, and even the Maine Mariners (AHL) tormented our Landover Caps on the ice.

Remember the time you were doing a game at the old "Fabulous Forum" and, somehow, your stat sheets blew off the table. I held my breath until you announced that some good Samaritan had recovered your paperwork.

I will always remember your care and attention for the fans and the great game of hockey. I wish you and your family all the best.

Posted by: Terptwin | June 2, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Anyone else notice that Kolbe is always 2 or 3 seconds late on a goal call, if you listen to it, you can tall something happens before he says it. The only time I listen to him, is when I have no other choice.

Posted by: rarcr | June 2, 2010 5:19 PM | Report abuse

Kolbe really is awful.

Ron Weber was the voice I listened to so many nights as a kid, before cable TV hit my neighborhood (because we couldn't get good reception for channel 20). But that's not the reason I'm saying Kolbe is awful. Kolbe is just really awful.

Posted by: youaresquishy | June 3, 2010 5:09 PM | Report abuse

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