24 April, 2014


A Warm Voice from ’84 Makes a Reminiscing Return

It was wonderful seeing Ron Weber seated way up high in Verizon Center Sunday afternoon, headset on, mouth moving before a radio microphone with a sheet of ice below him. He joined Jonathon Warner during Federal News Radio’s Capitals’ pre-game program, and he had clutched in his hands a copy of the gamesheet from February 18, 1984 — a 4-2 Capitals’ triumph in St. Louis, the club’s 10th consecutive victory in the middle of that memorable winter. All of the rich detail of Ron Weber’s legendary game calls was etched onto the front, back and side margins of that sheet of paper. In what was the 60th game for the Caps that season, for instance, Weber had a notation that the team had gone shorthanded by two men merely three times (surrendering one goal). He told Warner how this well illustrated that team’s discipline.

Back into the ’80s we were again on Sunday in Verizon Center.

Craig Laughlin had a goal and two assists in that record-establishing game in ’84, Weber additionally pointed out.

I conducted a survey of print, broadcast, and new media before Sunday’s game to pulse sentiment on just how big a deal this winning streak is. I mean, should we be stopping the electronic presses over it? What was its importance in a relative and big-picture sense — does it mean as much to the players and coaches as it does to fans?, I asked press to speculate. It’d been conspicuously downplayed by the head coach all week; referenced regularly by the media covering the team; emerged as a point of lavish civic pride on 106.7 The Fan; and swelled the price of tickets for games this week on outlets like Craig’s List and Stub Hub.

I received interesting and thoughtful replies:

  • In the context of what the Caps want to do this season — namely, win a Stanley Cup — no, the streak isn’t that big a deal, one writer offered;
  • It sure is a big deal to Ovi, said another writer — he wants to be no. 1 at everything.
  • I guarantee you Bruce Boudreau is talking to his team about matching the all-time best winning streak down there in the locker room at this very moment, offered one broadcaster.
  • Ovi loves to win, offered another broadcaster, and now that he’s in a leadership role he will make this a big deal to his teammates if it already isn’t one for them.
  • Still another broadcaster termed the current streak “huge” to the players and the organization as a whole. Every blogger I spoke to believed this streak to be a top storyline on the season.

I didn’t need to survey Ron Weber; the aged scoresheet in his hand told me all I felt I needed to know about his thoughts on the significance of this streak — as did his presence on Washington’s most prominent news and sports radio outlet.

From this blogger’s perspective, a streak such as this would be enormous for this city at any moment in time, but it seems especially special and endearing and chest-thumping-worthy relative to the sour and dour that characterizes so much of the rest of our professional sports landscape here. Washington really needs this wonderful winning. It’s been a long time since a big-four-sport team here could boast being this juggernaut good. And the fact that it’s the hockey team that is the studly story is a distinctive source of pride for the region’s puckheads, all too accustomed to being regarded as the red-headed stepchildren of sports fans about the region. Bask in it we will as long as this great ride races forward.

A false concern, though: the Caps are “peaking too early” in the season. There was nothing about the team’s play this past weekend, against Southeast division opponents, that suggested to Bruce Boudreau anything related to his club approaching peak performance. His players know it, too.

It is wrong, too, to look past this moment and wish instead that the playoffs were already upon us. This is history; it demands our savoring it, in a detailed fashion like a Ron Weber does, so that a following generation of hockey fans can be told about it. Moreover the hockey season has a calendar that cannot be shortcut. A Stanley Cup is cherished as it is by virtue of the long and arduous path required to claim it.  These days, we in HockeyWashington just aren’t experiencing much ardor.

Winning and HockeyWashington are now synonymous. Spend a fair portion of your Monday meditating upon that.

Ahead looms a stunningly mediocre Boston team, Zdeno Chara’s towering form virtually alone in standing between the Caps and their all-time greatest win streak. I find myself particularly in synch with the sentiment that this winning streak has become something of a personal mission for the new captain. It’s oddly interesting, isn’t it, that this historic streak has occurred less than a month into his leadership reign? Coincidence? Since Ovechkin was named captain on January 5 the Caps have won 13 of 14 games.

I wonder what sort of TV rating’s Tuesday’s game in Boston will draw for Comcast, with all-time history on the line. And I wonder as well what sort of drive and determination we’ll see from the captain that night. About the same as we saw in yesterday’s final 10 minutes, with the outcome in doubt, I think.

Ron Weber is a walking library of Capitals’ history. If this season ends in exceptionally special fashion, really spectacularly like in the stuff of dreams, and on home ice, I will want very much to be seated next to him in the press box that night, a fellow traveler with this team since day one. As the clock draws down to zero I will turn and look at the man whose voice brought Capitals’ hockey alive in my life back during the years when there was no television coverage of hockey here to be found, and ask him, “Now this is a two-point night, isn’t it?”

*****

Sunday evening email from the Hershey Bears: “We’re only about $400 short of $3,000 [needed for Jason Hartle] after our games here this weekend.” I want to send a very personal thank you out to two early Red Army action-takers in this matter, HC Young, of section 115, who was the first Caps’ fan on Sunday to relay to us a generous contribution for Jason Hartle’s cause, and Heather, an OFB follower on Twitter in New Jersey, who also chipped in generously. We’ve got two more home games this week to raise money for Jason, and we’ll come to your seat to retrieve every dollar.



17 Comments

  1. Catherine Speer wrote:

    Where can we send checks to help Jason. I live outside PA.

    1 February, 2010 at 8:18 am | Permalink
  2. Catherine,

    Send an email to bearsradio@hotmail.com — your charitable impulse will get appropriately channeled. Thank you.

    1 February, 2010 at 9:03 am | Permalink
  3. Ray in Bowie wrote:

    I still have a cassette tape of Weber’s last end-of-game/postgame broadcast, and his call of the Dale Hunter Game 7 OT goal against Philly. He was a great broadcaster and a gentleman.

    1 February, 2010 at 10:00 am | Permalink
  4. Ray,

    You and I need to have an over-beers meeting about that Hunsty call tape, and getting it converted to digital. Beers on me.

    And “great broadcaster” and “gentleman” indeed.

    1 February, 2010 at 10:53 am | Permalink
  5. Daniel wrote:

    I have been a Caps fan since 1974, really.. no lie (born in ’64, so 10 years old when we got the team). I have witnessed all the horrible losing of the early years and all the playoff heartbreaks, bad luck (and bad refereeing against us in key playoff games) but also every great moment like John Druce’s overtime goal in MSG that put us into the Conference Finals for the first time, Dale Hunters legendary OT goal in game 7 against the Flyers (I almost hit my head on the ceiling of the Cap Centre when he scored that one from my 2nd to last row nose-bleed seat!) and of course the great run to the finals in ’98. Seeing the Caps be so good now gives me goose bumps and my emotions swell with pride… but I know their playoff history and I have had expectations so many times before…want to see them peak at the right time

    1 February, 2010 at 11:13 am | Permalink
  6. Daniel I’m with you on that one – I remember the “Stick it to ‘em” stickers of the first couple of seasons. Even then every 12 year old I knew (born in 63) would be saying “stink it to ‘em” – I love how the times have changed.

    1 February, 2010 at 11:37 am | Permalink
  7. DCPensFan wrote:

    Saw in the Post this morning that the longest winning streak is 17 games, by 1992–93 Penguins. Seem like the Pens are always the team for you to beat.

    Too bad the schedule didn’t work out for the potential 18th-in-row to be the 2/7 matchup.

    1 February, 2010 at 2:43 pm | Permalink
  8. Angie wrote:

    Since the age of 13 I’ve been following the Caps, so for the better part of 26 years I’ve been riding this wave. The up’s and down’s have always been heart wrenching, but something feels different this time. Something seems to be clicking with this team more so than any other I’ve seen. Each game there seems to be a little more given, a little more understanding that every game matters, that every goal, every win propels them forward towards what they want most, what we all want. For the first time the team seems focused on one goal and one goal alone, to be the best in the NHL, to bring the Stanley Cup home to DC. This season is something special and I for one get all kinds of excited just thinking about the potential! I don’t believe we’ve seen the best this team has to offer yet. We are going to hit some bumps but I think the best is yet to come!!!!

    1 February, 2010 at 3:19 pm | Permalink
  9. Christopher wrote:

    I feel like I just read a Dickins novel… but it was about the Caps.

    1 February, 2010 at 4:05 pm | Permalink
  10. DCSPORTSFAN1 wrote:

    DCPENSFAN, i did a little schedule counting today to see if that was to be, but sadly no. if we are fortunate enought to keep this going, the 18th would have to come the first game after the olympics. would be tough to wait that out.

    the pens streak included two OT games. the caps current streak includes a shootout win (first game v fla). so by comparison, the caps streak is 9. however, the isles won 15 in a row before overtime games, which i view as the true winning streak.

    in the end, a nice 16 game win streak in may/june is the only thing that matters so we can pry that silver cup out of your slimy hands!!

    1 February, 2010 at 5:17 pm | Permalink
  11. Valleycapsfan wrote:

    Good to recall Ron Weber’s terrific broadcasting and, yes, this current streak has me pinching myself. As a Caps fan since 1982, however, memories of the Caps often-terrific regular seasons followed by playoff collapses keeps my head from being in the clouds. This does indeed feel different, but playoff memories of collapses inflicted by the Rangers (1986), Pat Lafontaine (1987), Ron Hextall and Rick Tochett (1989), etc., still tug at me.

    1 February, 2010 at 7:49 pm | Permalink
  12. Andrew wrote:

    Any of the other old-timers (LOL) interested in a “Way to go Miss Twiddle” banner for the Verizon Center?

    2 February, 2010 at 8:42 am | Permalink
  13. 4capitals wrote:

    I have been a Caps fan from the beginning and I was, as I am now, a STH back in 1983-84 and maybe it is my age but I have to confess I don’t remember a single thing about that ten game winning streak. The fact is people only remember what happens in the playoffs and unfortunately Cap fans have too many bitter memories of playoff losses and not enough joyous memories. Hopefully, this will all change this season. For Cap fans it is Stanley Cup or bust.

    2 February, 2010 at 8:57 am | Permalink
  14. Ari wrote:

    With you on the Ron Weber moment. I also grew up listening to him and memorized the ’88 call, which I probably still have on tape somewhere in my parents’ basement.

    So sad that he’s no longer doing Caps play-by-play. Steve Kolbe seems like a nice guy, but on the radio, he’s a inexperienced amateur compared to Ron. Never understood why they made the switch, and would do anything to get Ron back.

    Is the audio of him on Sunday available anywhere? Would love to listen.

    2 February, 2010 at 9:48 am | Permalink
  15. Ari,

    As a matter of fact, I have a request in with Federal News Radio for an mp3 file of that segment, and I am hopeful of getting it this week. And you better believe I’d share it.

    2 February, 2010 at 9:52 am | Permalink
  16. Mike Gallagher wrote:

    Enjoyed your comments on Ron Weber. I was a season ticket holder for the first two seasons of the Caps before we moved to central Virginia and I too have an audio tape of Ron’s call vs. Philly. I love the ending, where in the background you can here the Cap Centre PA announcer saying…
    “Bring on New Joys-see” Great night ! Enjoy your writings !

    2 February, 2010 at 2:49 pm | Permalink
  17. Bill wrote:

    Also enjoyed your excellent post about Ron Weber as well. There was no finer announcer. Us really old timers (I was hooked on the sport of hockey and this Caps team as a 15 year old from my first game in Dec 74 against the Sabres) remember of course in the very early years Ron’s color man was none other than Jack Doniger, whose daughter Joan is an announcer on WMAL radio. What a pair Ron and Jack made, despite the Caps’ combined first two season record of 19-126-15! Anybody remember arguably the best game of the Caps inaugural 1974-75 8-67-5 season? The final game of the campaign. Caps vs. Penguins. Stan Gilbertson scored four goals in an 8-4 drubbing of Pittsburgh. What a game! 35 years later and still remember it like yesterday. But I digress – I too have several excellent audio recordings in MP3 format of Ron Weber from those early years. Happy to add them to a collection if someone wants to start assembling an on-line library. Also, somewhere in my basement I still have a montage of Ron calling many of the goals scored in the second or third season. Will have to search around and see if I can dig out that old cassette tape.

    2 February, 2010 at 10:58 pm | Permalink