Former Caps broadcaster Ron Weber honored by Hockey Hall of Fame
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."
June 1, 2010; 2:33 PM ET
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