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Ron Weber gets the call from the Hall


Weber and a young Joe B. in 1997. (By Rich Lipski - TWP)


On the morning of April 29, Ron Weber got a call from Chuck Kaiton, president of the NHL Broadcasters' Association, who brought welcome news: Weber had won the 2010 Foster Hewitt Memorial Award, awarded annually to a TV or radio broadcaster during the Hockey Hall of Fame Induction weekend.

"The culmination of my career," said Weber, the radio voice of the Caps for the first 23 years of their existence. "Everybody has a personal life and a professional life, and this is the exclamation mark on my professional life."

But it was also a bit of particularly good cheer, coming as it did 12 hours after the Caps had flamed out in the first round of the playoffs. Weber - who still goes to about 35 Caps games a year - had been at Game 7, and was going through the same morning-after doldrums the rest of Washington suffered on that April morning. Then he found out he was going to Toronto.

"Euphoric," Weber said, describing his emotions. "I said, 'Boy, I needed that.' My hockey vibes went from negative to positive in a big hurry."

Weber's work may be foreign to the Caps' newest generation of fans, but he helped forge the team's initial community, calling the team's first 1,936 games. (Listen to highlights here, or at this Caps tribute.) He did so with joy, even when the team was setting new standards of futility. Only 19 of Weber's first 160 games were wins, and team employees joked that he was one of only two men who were sad to see the eight-win inaugural season end. (The other was winger Bill Lesuk, an incurable optimist.)

"It just didn't matter," said Weber, who had previously worked as a color man for the 9-73 Philadelphia 76ers when they set an NBA record for misery, and who had listened to the New York Mets' inaugural season on the radio. "You have so much time in baseball to think, 'My God, they're behind 8-0 and it's their eighth straight loss, how did I get here?' Hockey, you're busy telling them what's happening, and so the futility didn't bother me."

Neither was he bothered by the rigors of play-by-play life, which sometimes left him scrambling to keep his streak intact. There was the time when his son Tod wrecked his knee during an all-star break skiing trip. Weber met up with his son in his Northern California home, and booked the latest flight from San Jose to Edmonton, connecting through Vegas. The second leg was canceled, leaving him sleeping under a metal palm tree in the Vegas airport. The next morning he flew back to the Bay Area, then on to Calgary and finally Edmonton, arriving a couple hours before the puck dropped.

There was the time the Caps were stuck in a Boston blizzard, and the GM put Weber higher on the boarding list for precious spots than the team's backup goalie. And there was the time in Winnipeg when his retina tore, leaving him rushing off the plane in Vancouver and into an eye doctor's office.

"That was hairy for a while, no two ways about that," he said. "Couldn't see out of one eye real good. It looked like I was seeing out of a salmon-colored curtain."

But yeah, he worked the game that night.

Weber wasn't sure what to do after he was replaced by Steve Kolbe prior to the 1997 season, but his wife Mary Jane suggested he "smell the roses," so he never really pursued another job. Neither did he campaign for this honor, though he "had my fingers crossed for years" about the award.

He's been unable to tell people about his win for the past month, but when the press release went out on Tuesday, the calls started flooding in. In the first 14 minutes of our chat, his phone rang five times, with the callers including the voice of the Nashville Predators, Joe Beninati, and a representative of the Caps.

He had friends who were doctors and dentists and surgeons, and "they seemed like they were doing more important things," but when fans would tell him about the sort of happiness he could bring into their cars and living rooms, he stopped worrying as much about that. I told him that whenever I post a word about the Caps' broadcast coverage, someone is sure to mention his name, and he said he still gets stopped in the concourse at Verizon Center.

"That makes me feel so good, that I'm not forgotten," he said. "I'm so thankful."

Weber has "three great kids," five grandchildren and "a beautiful wife," and he said this honor finally puts a hard return at the end of his career.

"After this, there's nothing left for me to accomplish from a professional point of view," he said. "Life is great. I just want everybody to know that retirement wears well with me. I'm at peace with the world and enjoying things. This is the icing on the cake."

By Dan Steinberg  |  June 1, 2010; 7:02 PM ET
Categories:  Caps , Media  
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Comments

This is wonderful, and a greatly deserved honor!

I recall not knowing if I'd ever get used to Kolbe when he replaced Webber in 1997. I'd listened to Webber calling Caps games on WMAL ever since I moved to DC in 1983. I've never understood why the Caps or WMAL replaced him, and I'm glad he's happy with retirement.

This may be icing on the cake for Webber professionally, but I'd bet he wants a Stanley Cup for the Caps even more. Hopefully they can get it next season.

Posted by: CJMARTIN04 | June 1, 2010 7:30 PM | Report abuse

Well said by CJMartin. I can remember being 8, 9, 10 years old and devastated when the Caps would be on a West Coast swing and the games weren't televised. The only thing that got me through those nights was Ron Weber. I'm sure we're all suckers for the guys we grew up listening to be it on the radio or television. I'll always love Mel Proctor, Johnny Holiday, Ken Beatrice, Mike Fornes, Smokin Al...but there was nothing like listening to the Caps play the Kings at 11:30 on a Tuesday night, or listening to the pre-game as you pulled into the Stars & Stripes lot, or the post game as you sat in the lot on your way home. Congrats to Ron Weber. Well deserved!

Posted by: DisgustedinArlington | June 1, 2010 9:21 PM | Report abuse

Wonderful that Ron Weber Gets what's comin' to him, You Go Ron!

Posted by: shnewsman | June 1, 2010 9:29 PM | Report abuse

Dan, really wonderful work here. I hope to see it in print tomorrow. Captures Ron perfectly.

Posted by: RedBirdie | June 1, 2010 9:59 PM | Report abuse

As Ron might say, way to go, Miss Twiddle. For Caps fans in the 70s and 80s, Ron Weber was as much a part of the team as anyone. With only 15-20 road games on TV a year, and no cable yet in much of the DC region even when the home games started appearing on cable, Ron Weber was the way Caps fans experienced most games back in the day. And from his odd expressions like the one above, to his unbelievable stat-keeping (As Ron might say, "The Caps have played 14 times on January 13th, and they have four wins, eight losses and two ties"--and then he'd recount them all for you), to his genuine excitement when the Caps scored a big goal, he was unique. I'll never forget sitting in the Cap Centre parking lot after the Dale Hunter goal, listening as he played his call of the game winning goal over and over--and people in the parking lot cheered every time.

Oh, and thanks for that link, Dan-that Website of old Ron Weber calls is awesome.

Posted by: TheFingerman | June 1, 2010 10:30 PM | Report abuse

Complete class act. Miss him. Also miss Ken Beatrice after Caps games following weber.

Posted by: pkme | June 1, 2010 11:39 PM | Report abuse

I miss Ron Weber. Without him, how can I know what the Caps' all-time record is on Tuesdays in November?

Posted by: FlyersSuck | June 1, 2010 11:53 PM | Report abuse

Kenny B, Ronny W, & Mel P.
DC sports media @ it's best.

Posted by: Rocc00 | June 1, 2010 11:53 PM | Report abuse

Hockey has so many great announcers. Mike Lange, whom I grew up listening to in Pittsburgh. Mike Emrick, my favorite, national, tv announcer in any sport, and Ron Weber, the great voice of the Washington Capitals. They have one attribute in common - they use the inflection in their voice to create tension and excitement in the game. The closer a team is about to scoring, the louder and more dramatic the voice gets. I am driving in the car listening to the game, and all of the sudden I am drawn in as Weber describes a 2 on 1 situation, or a shot/ rebound/ shot attempt. Weber gets your heart beating.

To this day, I don't understand why he was let go - and for what, Steve Kolby? Thats like trading Michael Jordan for Ryan Seacrest in the NBA. Admittedly, Steve does have a face for radio, but he just doesn't have a voice for it. *drumshot*

Worst.. announcer... ever...

Posted by: niceshoes1 | June 2, 2010 12:04 AM | Report abuse

Just to clarify the obvious, the "Worst.. announcer... ever..." was meant for Kolbe, not Weber

Posted by: niceshoes1 | June 2, 2010 12:06 AM | Report abuse

Ron Weber = The Man. End of discussion.

Posted by: CF11555 | June 2, 2010 12:26 AM | Report abuse

Ron was my idol growing up. Met him once as a kid, again in college (interviewed him), and actually once last year.

Gracious and professional each time. What a talent, and what a man.

Sure Kolbe is a very nice guy, but for true Caps fans, there is really no comparison. I feel sorry for the newer fans that have nothing to compare the current announcer to.

Posted by: Timo17 | June 2, 2010 4:19 AM | Report abuse

out with the old in with the new.....how depressing is that ? I have been listening to Caps games since 1981 on the dail Weber was my date on game nights.Now we have who we have on cable and I still want to know why the wizards @ 14-88 could out rank the caps @ 38-12-15 for HD on thar CSN and we have to watch the better team on the non HD channel . My HD tv does not like that !

Posted by: terryreece | June 2, 2010 7:55 AM | Report abuse

Ron was one of only a handful of people who I knew had seen more Caps games than I had up to the end of the '93 season, when my own 19 year obsession to never miss a (home) game was finally broken. So that was half of the Caps games where I never heard his broadcasts, I would try to listen to him on the radio inside the Cap Centre early on, but that's a good way to cause hearing damage if you crank-up the radio in an attempt to hear him over the crowd when something big happened. His being released when they moved downtown was one of the biggest screw-ups ever made by the Caps previous ownership/management (and there were a number of things to choose from), but that one was worthy of something Peter Angelos would do.

Posted by: dabagley | June 2, 2010 8:19 AM | Report abuse

Ron WAS THE GREATEST. As a fan of the Caps in the late 80'w and 90's, I listened to hundreds of un-televized games over the years and I still have not heard in announcer come close to him as far as passion and honesty for the game. He is a legend, and deserves this honor. Caps management should recognized this achievement in a big way next season. The new generation of fans should be made aware of Mr. Weber's contributions to this franchise. Well deserved honor Ron, well deserved.....

Posted by: mireskan | June 2, 2010 8:38 AM | Report abuse

I have to echo what everyone else is saying here in that he was an icon for me growing up. His excitements was totally infectious. While Kolby is OK he has never come close to Mr. Weber in my opinion. I had a chance to talk to Ron one-on-one in the parking lot of the Caps Convention and I chickened out! It was just him and his wife and myself and I got all nervous and kept walking. It was like running into Tom Hanks at the Safeway or something. I wish I had the guts to tell him how much he meant to me growing up -- seriously. DisgustedinArlington mentioned what is better than listening to Ron on a Tuesday as they played the Kings at 11:30. I couldn't agree more. If I ran the world I would (a) install Ron back as the play-by-play guy and (b) bring back Ken Beatrice!

I think I am going to put one of his calls via the link above on my answering machine. :-)

Posted by: TheOtherGuyInSection117 | June 2, 2010 9:09 AM | Report abuse

Every longtime Caps fan loves Ron Weber. This is wonderful news. He was pushed out of his job by that shrew, Susan O'Malley, for a much inferior replacement. Well deserved!

Posted by: randysbailin | June 2, 2010 9:15 AM | Report abuse

Basically, he is one of the main reasons I am a huge fan to this day. When I first started liking the Caps my family did not have HTS. I would come home from school, lie in bed, and listen to Ron explain the great game of hockey.
(One of the fondest memories from my younger days involves Ron's radio call of Hunter's OT goal against the Flyers in '88. I have been searching for a recording his call for the last twenty years.)
I was so sad when the Caps decided to replace him. Well deserved honor.

Posted by: jacob80 | June 2, 2010 9:17 AM | Report abuse

I grew up listening listening to Bill and Foster Hewitt on CKLW in Windsor, Ont. when I lived in Detroit. Canadian bomber crews would listen to recordings of games by them while making the long trip from England to Germany and back. Foster Hewitt was the first to say "He shoots, he scores". Ron Weber deserves to be held in the same high esteem as the group he now joins. Pleasant memories for me thinking of the Hewitts and Ron.
Congrats Ron.

Posted by: chopin224 | June 2, 2010 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Ron Weber is entirely the reason why I chose to pursue a career in radio (and entirely not the reason why I eventually got out). He's very much responsible for creating a love for hockey that I manage to satisfy on nearly a daily basis. Congratulations, and thank you for a lifetime of memories, Ron.

Posted by: fengraf | June 2, 2010 9:49 AM | Report abuse

I sat in the same row with Ron Weber at a game this year and I told him one of my favorite memories of childhood was staying until all hours of night listening to West coast games. He got a big kick out of that.

Posted by: Hockey19 | June 2, 2010 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Many of us learned hockey by listening to Weber call games. He was treated terribly by O'Malley and Pollin. Leonsis should have a "night" for Weber at a Caps game next season to honor his service to the Caps and to hockey in the DC area.

Posted by: poguesmahone | June 2, 2010 11:42 AM | Report abuse

This is great news. Congrats Ron!

Posted by: Hattrik | June 2, 2010 12:06 PM | Report abuse

I remember on one broadcast as I was coming home from the office, at that time I worked a noon - eight shift.

It was a playoff matchup with the rival Flyers, at that time in the second period there was already 145 minutes dished out in penalties.

To hear Ron describe the action was priceless, specifically one one occasion " We`ve played a grand total of nine seconds of hockey between fights! Wheeeeeeee !!!! "

I just about drove off the road laughing.

Congrats Ron, long overdue.

Posted by: terpfan4141 | June 2, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

I remember on one broadcast as I was coming home from the office, at that time I worked a noon - eight shift.

It was a playoff matchup with the rival Flyers, at that time in the second period there was already 145 minutes dished out in penalties.

To hear Ron describe the action was priceless, specifically one one occasion " We`ve played a grand total of nine seconds of hockey between fights! Wheeeeeeee !!!! "

I just about drove off the road laughing.

Congrats Ron, long overdue.

Posted by: terpfan4141 | June 2, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

Well deserved honor.

My favorite Ron Weber memory was the first. 1976, my freshman year in college. Although I was a Bruins fan (then), I was listening to the Caps broadcast on the radio. It was opening night of the season, and the Caps had the earliest faceoff of any team in the Patrick Division. Which meant that when they won, they were in first place for the first time in team history, and alone in first place for at least 20 minutes. I couldn't believe the announcer was so excited about that fact, but it was the first of 21 years worth of oddball statistics and enjoyable radio.

There will never be another Ron Weber. I'm glad I got to enjoy him for as long as I did, and glad to see him recognized.

Posted by: zimbar | June 2, 2010 5:34 PM | Report abuse

A well-deserved and long-overdue honor for one of the best at his craft. I enjoyed listening to Ron Weber on the radio after I first moved to the DC area in the mid-1980's, and I still consider the Caps' decision to involuntarily retire Mr. Weber as one of the worst decisions they've ever made.

Posted by: austinrl | June 2, 2010 5:56 PM | Report abuse

Congratulations to an ourstanding broadcaster and a genuine nice guy.

My favorite Ron Weber story was when I was in Florida one night in late March back in the eighties. The Caps were fighting for their first playoff berth (they lost it on the last day of the season) and were playing the Flyers. As I was driving across the Causeway between Tampa and St. Petersburg, I could actually pick up the WTOP signal for a few mintues. So of course I spent almost the whole night driving back and forth on the Causeway. Thank God it wasn't a toll road.

Posted by: StevefromSacto | June 2, 2010 8:18 PM | Report abuse

Congratulations to an ourstanding broadcaster and a genuine nice guy.

My favorite Ron Weber story was when I was in Florida one night in late March back in the eighties. The Caps were fighting for their first playoff berth (they lost it on the last day of the season) and were playing the Flyers. As I was driving across the Causeway between Tampa and St. Petersburg, I could actually pick up the WTOP signal for a few mintues. So of course I spent almost the whole night driving back and forth on the Causeway. Thank God it wasn't a toll road.

Posted by: StevefromSacto | June 2, 2010 8:19 PM | Report abuse

Congratulations to an ourstanding broadcaster and a genuine nice guy.

My favorite Ron Weber story was when I was in Florida one night in late March back in the eighties. The Caps were fighting for their first playoff berth (they lost it on the last day of the season) and were playing the Flyers. As I was driving across the Causeway between Tampa and St. Petersburg, I could actually pick up the WTOP signal for a few mintues. So of course I spent almost the whole night driving back and forth on the Causeway. Thank God it wasn't a toll road.

Posted by: StevefromSacto | June 2, 2010 8:20 PM | Report abuse

Ron Weber was the voice of hockey for as a boy listening to the Caps in the '70s. He was treated horribly by that cu*t Susan O'Malley and the cancer that was Abe Pollin. Leonsis must definitely honor this man who is a Washington institution, along with ken Beatrice, for anyone of my generation and older.

Posted by: garrafa10 | June 3, 2010 12:17 AM | Report abuse

I listened to Ron Weber since the early, early days and boy do I miss him. One of my favorite memories is the Dale Hunter goal. I was in college in Boston and there was no TV or radio coverage of the game there. I kept turning the radio to find someone giving sports scores. When the game was over, my father called me and let me listen to Ron's replay call of the game over the phone. I'll never forget that. My roommate was a Flyers fan so that made it even better!

Posted by: marcm2 | June 3, 2010 9:50 AM | Report abuse

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