Sound + Vision

A Simple Life Hack For An Improved Caps-Pens Experience

OK. We’re all filled with schpilkes about the upcoming death march series with the Penguins. Rightly so. And now, to add to the agita, we find ourselves without Joe B. and Locker doing the call, supported by Alan May and Smokin’ Al rinkside.

Joe B Locker

NBC (Nothing But Crosby) takes over the TV broadcasts for the second round and beyond, and you know what that means, the capable but beige Doc Emrick, and Pierre McGuire (the surprise hit at RMNBX and as we learned at Iron Horse, a huge You Can Play Booster. We got a hug!). Despite their position atop the NHL broadcast food chain, the NBC “talent” pales in comparison to CSN’s dream team. And that doesn’t even take into account Roenick, Jones and the other clown. Though Liam is kinda dreamy….

We need every comfort we can get. And it’s no strain to say the our now-benched Caps call-line, the very best NHL PxP and color team in the solar system, will be sorely missed. But we have a solution. We have a fix for your fidgets. His name is John Walton, and you know him by his voice. And here is how you do it.

From the Bears to the Caps

“I’ve been calling Caps games for six seasons – a day before the earthquake. I’ll call my 500th game next season.” The 44-year-old John Walton is the definition of an optimist. Well…an optimist, who’s been around the Caps.

“I don’t think anyone who  has heard my broadcasts would say I’m fair and balanced, but it’s so important to be fair and balanced,” says the Caps radio voice. Fair and balanced…or perhaps we’ll just say, honest.  Walton 1Walton grew up in Minnesota, listening to Bob Kirks and Al Shaver. “We moved to Ohio, at that time it was hard to follow a team from afar except for Ken Wilson on KMOX – I think I was probably modeled myself after Kenny,” says the booth veteran.

Some may see Walton playing second fiddle to the Joe B/Locker line, but consider just how more difficult the job of calling a hockey game for a radio audience is. “You try to capture a whole lot and digest it for someone who can’t see it,” he says. “You want to be able to give enough flavor to where the puck isn’t than is.

“On TV you can joke around a little more, because you have the picture. Radio is so different, so we try to bring the rink into the listener’s mind.”

Before being tapped to helm the Caps, Walton was the voice of the Hershey Bears – giving him unique insight into the players coming up through the ranks. “Doc was someone who was always encouraging to me,” Walton says, again giving credence that Emrick is a pretty good guy. From him and others, Walton says he honed his craft.

“Biggest difference between hockey and other sports to call is the pace. Baseball is a rocking chair; hockey is being like at the top of a rocket,” says Walton. “You don’t have as much time to add color because there’s too much going on. There’s so much more story telling in baseball.”

Anyone who’s listened to John’s call knows the joy and thrill of hearing – not seeing – a Caps goal. It’s an art that comes with practice. Radio might be even better than TV.

“I think a lot of the same influences as we talked about, but Ken Wilson with the St. Louis Blues probably had a big influence on me, as did Mike Emrick and Marty Brenneman with the Cincinnati Reds. Ken would always build up a big save in a way that I thought captured the listener, Marty was always so smooth in his delivery, and Doc captures the spirit of hockey in my mind as well as anyone ever has.”

How We’ll Survive

So here’s the thing. Our CSN crew is sidelined for the rest of the playoffs. But you don’t have to just resort to the audio NBC offers. We’d never survive if we had to.

Caps radioHere’s how to sync the Walton live cast with the TV signal, courtesy John Walton: “The best way to hear us – we’re about 30 to 45 seconds behind the TV signal. For syncing purposes, the Caps Radio 24/7 stream has a little bar at the bottom, with a pause button. The easiest way is the Caps Radio app [available from the App Store of Google Play here]. It’s better than FM and that’s about 30 seconds behind.”

If you listen over the air on 1500AM, you can always fidget with the pause button on your DVR. No matter how you tune in to John’s call, it will make for a much better game experience. Good morning, good afternoon and good night Pittsburgh, four times please!


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