Photo: Washington Capitals
You may not recognize John Walton if you were to see him, but when you hear his voice – well, you’re likely to recognize it, especially if you’re a Caps fan! John Walton is the Senior Director of Broadcasting with the Washington Capitals, in addition to being the “Voice of the Capitals”. This month he celebrates his 5th anniversary with the organization and he’s very excited to start his sixth season with the Caps! NoVa Caps sat down with John in July to catch up on things.
To date, John has provided the play-by-play calls for over 1,000 games in the AHL, and for nearly 500 games with the Washington Capitals in the NHL. The 2016-2017 season will be his sixth season with the Capitals. While he’s got quite a bit of experience, he’s just as excited and energetic now, as he was when his career began.
Recently, I had the opportunity to meet with John. We met at the Capitals’ headquarters housed inside of Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, Virginia. Without having to ask any questions to John, immediately upon entering his office, I would have been able to piece together his professional work history fairly easily. His office was appropriately decorated with memorabilia and photographs from his current and previous employers.
Prior to joining the Capitals, John spent nine years with the Hershey Bears, from 2002 until joining the Caps in August of 2011. As the Sr. Manager of Communications with the Bears, John was with them during their three Calder Cup Championship seasons in ’05-06, ’08-09 and ’09-10. He has all three championship team photographs hanging in his office.
We had fun looking back at some of the Bear Calder Cup Champions who we’ve become very familiar with in Capitals sweaters and or behind the bench, such as: Bruce Boudreau, Eric Fehr, Mike Green, and Brooks Laich (’05-06), Matthew Perreault, Karl Alzner, Jay Beagle, John Carlson and Michal Neuvirth (’08-09) and John Carlson, Jay Beagle, Karl Alzner and Braden Holtby (’09-10). The Hershey Bears have proved to be very good to the Washington Capitals.
And it was during his tenure with the Bears where he coined his signature sign off “Good Morning, Good Afternoon Goodnight!” My interview would not have been complete without asking John to tell me the story of how his tag line came to be. And this is what he told me:
“While I was in Hershey, before the Caps and Bears were affiliated, we were playing Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, our hated I-81 rival. We weren’t having a great year, and we played them a lot. We rallied to beat them one night, and I said “Good Morning, Good Afternoon, and Good Night Wilkes-Barre” as the sign off as we won in their building. Our coach at the time, Paul Fixter, heard the call on the video on the bus ride home, and turned around to me and said “Johnny, loved the call at the end of the game, you should use that more often.” Next night, we beat Wilkes-Barre at home, and I used it again, and then never really stopped. Funny, when I got the Caps job here, the first question Tarik El-Bashir asked me for his Post [Tarik’s current employer is CSN] story was if I was keeping that call or not. Obviously, I did.”
And his signature sign off has become a fan favorite! One of my most memorable John Walton calls is provided for your listening enjoyment below. This is a fabulous game seven playoff sequence against the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Boston Bruins, between Joel Ward and Mike Knuble – John takes us through his play-by-play:
John told me that since he was doing the game by myself, right after this call, when they went to break, he was so excited, he accidentally punched his engineer, Dave Powers, in the shoulder. It was a high-five that got messed up a little!
When I asked John what his favorite call of his career to date has been, without a moment of hesitation, he told me it was the call after Alex Ovechkin scored his 500th goal in January of this past year. You can take a listen here:
Another favorite call of John’s is Kuznetsov’s Game Seven of Round One goal against the New York Islanders in 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs, you can listen to that call by clicking here.
There are just so many sensational JW calls! Here’s one more from this past season, Game One of Round Two against Pittsburgh. T.J. had one heck of a game, take a listen:
John grew up in Minnesota. When he was young, he cheered for the North Stars. He said that he was “…captivated by the game from the first time I ever went with my dad“. He said looking back now, it’s interesting as there were several connections between North Star players who also either played for the Capitals or would later be employed in front office positions with them, such as Dino Ciccarelli, Brian MacLellan, and Don Beaupre.
John went to college at Miami University and received a degree in Communications. John is pictured below with Former Miami University Assistant Hockey Coach and current Capitals Goaltending Coach, Mitch Korn and the St. Louis Blues’ Broadcaster, and Miami University alumni, Chris Kerber.
He told me that he always knew that he wanted to get into broadcasting. As so many broadcasters do, John started out as a Sports and Traffic Anchor, but quickly moved onto becoming the Director of Broadcasting for the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks, an AHL hockey team. After nearly three years with the Ducks and zero playoff success, he turned to baseball – a sport he is very passionate about. He became the Public Address Announcer for the Cincinnati Reds. He announced over 550 major league baseball games at Riverfront Stadium/Cinergy Field.
However, in 2002, he made the move from Cincinnati, Ohio to “chocolate town” to become the Senior Manager of Communications with the Hershey Bears. When I asked him about the move from baseball back to hockey – he said, “Beckie, in baseball there is no roof and there is no clock – enough said! I love working in hockey so much better!” His career in hockey continued and after nine years with the Bears and the AHL, he moved to Arlington, Virginia and became “The Voice” of the Washington Capitals.
I asked John who he most admires as it relates to his line of work, and he told me that for hockey it would definitely be Mike “Doc” Emrick!
He said that Doc is the “Platinum Standard”. He went further to say that he thought he was “Perfect and truly extraordinary!”
And for baseball it would be Marty Brennaman, who has been the Radio Voice of the Reds since 1974.
In John’s current role, he is not only the Play-by-Play Announcer for the Caps, but he is also responsible for Caps Radio – and let me tell you, John is very passionate and excited about Caps Radio 24/7! If you’re not listening to Caps Radio, you may want to tune in.
John is fully aware of the issues that NoVa Caps fans have with PENBC and he told me that Pierre McGuire is the best thing that has happened to Caps Radio!
Caps Radio broadcasts every Cap’s game with John providing the play-by-play. He’ll start several hours before the drop of the puck with a pre-game analysis. NoVa Caps fans may also enjoy “Caps Talk” a (regular season) program hosted by John weekdays from 4-6pm.
John was very excited and quick to give me some stats in regards to the number of people tuning into Caps Radio. Those numbers were extremely impressive with 419,688 session starts (basically the number of times people have tuned in) and 251,616 listening hours (to-date)! Playoff Game One against Pittsburgh was Caps Radio’s best night of last season with nearly 12K fans listening to the game.
I asked John about his predictions for the Capitals this upcoming season. And he’s optimistic. He said “The Capitals are a very good team. Not much has changed since last season.” He believes Lars Eller is going to give us the strength in our third line center position and he went further to say that he believed our lack of depth in that position last season was our fatal flaw against Pittsburgh. He believes that we are a play-off team, right now. And that we should win the Divisional Title. He went further to say that there is no real weak team in our division.
My last question for John was whether or not he gets nervous before calling a game. And he very quickly said “No”. And then I asked him if he thinks about calling a Washington Capitals Stanley Cup Playoff championship game. And he paused for a moment and then looked right into my eyes and said “Yes, I have thought about that. And that one – well, that one does make me nervous”.
Here’s to hoping that we’ll have John shaking in his boots come June, 2017!
Let’s Go Caps! #IsItOctoberYet
By Beckie Reilly