The last three Washington Capitals game broadcasts have been different. They’ve been missing the finely dressed Joe Beninati, who has been the team’s play-by-play man for HTS/CSN Washington since 1994.
Beninati was last seen on television on Friday, when he was covering the NCAA Hockey Midwest Regional for ESPNU in Cincinnati, Ohio.
“We had two semifinal games [to call on] Friday,” Beninati told me by email. “On Friday afternoon before the games began, I felt like my voice was weakening with laryngitis. I called both games and by the time I finished those six hours on air, my voice was shot.”
Beninati, who had been given a scheduled day off Saturday from CSN Washington to cover the Regional Final for ESPN, could not do so because his voice was completely gone.
The next night — not so much.
“I was supposed to call our CSN / Caps game in Nashville Sunday, but my voice was nowhere near strong enough to work a game,” Beninati said. “So, I watched Al and Craig do the game from the booth standing right next to them!”
Joe B. hoped he would be healthy enough to call the Caps/Stars game on Tuesday, but his doctors thought his voice could use an extra few days of rest to make it through the rest of the season.
When I asked Beninati if he was enjoying some rare time off from his hectic schedule, the hard-working play-by-play man admitted he has been absolutely miserable.
“Thankfully, this doesn’t happen very often to me,” Beninati said. “When it does, it’s the most helpless, horrible feeling you can imagine. Simply put, I can’t do what I love to do and that really hurts me.”
Beninati was also very appreciative of Al Koken, who has stepped in during a very busy time for the network.
“I am very grateful to Al for all the extra effort he has put in to substitute for me,” Beninati said. “Our home-ice production team has been together for a long time (Director Bill Bell, Producer Steve Farrell, Graphics Coordinator Adam Miller, Stage Manager Tom Morris) so when one of the announcers has to miss a game, those guys make it a smooth transition for whomever has to fill in.”
Joe B. is optimistic that Friday, when the Capitals travel up I-95 to take on the Devils in New Jersey, will be the day he returns.
“If all goes well, I will be with the team on Friday,” Beninati said. “My voice has strengthened a great deal today. The medicines are taking their effect. Two more days of almost complete silence should help get me back to where I need to be.”
While Al has done admirably in Joe’s absence, we need him back — the sooner the better.