Ron Weber gets the call from the Hall
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."
June 1, 2010; 7:02 PM ET
Categories: Caps , Media
Save & Share: Previous: June 8 Nats ticket prices zooming on secondary market
Next: Need June 8 tickets? Stay tuned
Posted by: CJMARTIN04 | June 1, 2010 7:30 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: DisgustedinArlington | June 1, 2010 9:21 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: shnewsman | June 1, 2010 9:29 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: RedBirdie | June 1, 2010 9:59 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: TheFingerman | June 1, 2010 10:30 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: pkme | June 1, 2010 11:39 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: FlyersSuck | June 1, 2010 11:53 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Rocc00 | June 1, 2010 11:53 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: niceshoes1 | June 2, 2010 12:04 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: niceshoes1 | June 2, 2010 12:06 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: CF11555 | June 2, 2010 12:26 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: Timo17 | June 2, 2010 4:19 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: terryreece | June 2, 2010 7:55 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: dabagley | June 2, 2010 8:19 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: mireskan | June 2, 2010 8:38 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: TheOtherGuyInSection117 | June 2, 2010 9:09 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: randysbailin | June 2, 2010 9:15 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: jacob80 | June 2, 2010 9:17 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: chopin224 | June 2, 2010 9:38 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: fengraf | June 2, 2010 9:49 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: Hockey19 | June 2, 2010 11:24 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: poguesmahone | June 2, 2010 11:42 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: Hattrik | June 2, 2010 12:06 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: terpfan4141 | June 2, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: terpfan4141 | June 2, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: zimbar | June 2, 2010 5:34 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: austinrl | June 2, 2010 5:56 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: StevefromSacto | June 2, 2010 8:18 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: StevefromSacto | June 2, 2010 8:19 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: StevefromSacto | June 2, 2010 8:20 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: garrafa10 | June 3, 2010 12:17 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: marcm2 | June 3, 2010 9:50 AM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.