The score is tied 1-1 late in a tense game against the Boston Bruins when a Washington Capitals right wing gets loose with the puck. Joe Beninati, standing six stories above the Verizon Center ice, takes note. His face becomes tense. His voice rises.
And with a dramatic slap-shot goal comes the call:
“Alexander Semin… with a BUZZ… BOMB!”
Another big moment for the Caps, who hang on to win 2-1. And another rousing call from Beninati, who has seen more than his share of dramatic wins and tough losses in his 14 years as the team’s play-by-play man on Comcast SportsNet.
On this night, Beninati is in the middle of a stretch of six hockey games in a week’s span and is looking forward to a few days off for the All-Star break. But first he must focus on making his way to New York for a game at Nassau Coliseum in 36 hours.
He is not tired.
“I’m pumped up right now,” the 43-year-old Beninati says, his blue pinstripe suit still sharply pressed and his small suitcase in tow. “You talk to the players, and they will tell you about that adrenaline rush. I get a little bit of that.”
The rush from a Caps victory has been commonplace over the last two years as the team has surged from NHL bottom feeder to playoff contender. And as the Caps’ fortunes have risen, so too has Beninati’s national profile. In addition to working more than 70 Caps games on Comcast SportsNet, he also works nearly two dozen nationally televised NHL games on the Versus cable network, where he is the No.2 play-by-play announcer behind Mike Emrick. He is the voice of Pac-10 and Mountain West college football on Versus, and during the summer he broadcasts ESPN’s weekly Major League Lacrosse games.
“I’ve always wanted to have that kind of versatility,” Beninati says, adjusting his bright purple tie. “In the last four to five years I’ve done eight different sports. I wanted to have that flexibility, and I didn’t want to be just a one-sport announcer. I think it always helps at a network level to do more than one sport well. They’re more apt to call upon you.”
Working Caps hockey, however, remains his core duty. Beninati has been with Comcast SportsNet and its predecessor networks since 1994, most of the time alongside analyst and former Caps ring wing Craig Laughlin and Comcast producer and director Bill Bell, who rave about his work ethic, attention to detail and his passion for hockey.
“If you tell him he’s going to work a tiddlywinks contest, he’s going to know everything there is to know about tiddlywinks,” Laughlin says. “That’s the way he is.”
Beninati’s path to the broadcast booth did not begin in the womb, as has been the case with many prominent play-by-play men. As a boy on Long Island, he often fell asleep to the muffled sound of Marv Albert from his family’s living room television. But his career ambitions sent him to Bowdoin College in Maine to pursue a biology degree with the intention of becoming a doctor.
Those plans got sidetracked, however, when he was injured during his freshman season as a goalie for Bowdoin’s hockey team. While sitting out that season, he got involved in the campus radio station and was asked to describe games for them on the radio. He quickly drew the attention of other local high schools and colleges and was asked to do television broadcasts for a local cable access station.
“I’m 19 years old, 20 years old, and people are saying, ‘Can you do one for the local high school basketball teams and football teams?’” he said. “And all of the sudden the phone rings at home: ‘Mom, Dad, I don’t know about med school.’”
Beninati earned his degree in biology but then spent two years in the Bowdoin athletic department while also calling games. Several years later, Beninati found himself as the play-by-play voice of the AHL’s Maine Mariners, followed by the Providence Bruins. Five years later, he was hired by WDCA-TV (Channel 20) and then Home Team Sports, the predecessor to Comcast SportsNet.View Entire Story
By Andrew P. Napolitano
The president's men trash the Constitution to pursue antagonists
Independent voices from the TWT Communities
Columns from Voices around the World talking about the events, people, politics and social issues that concern us wherever, and whoever, we are.
Are there profound differences between the Left and the Right? You betcha.
Wall Street news before (and occasionally after) the opening bell.
Benghazi: The anatomy of a scandal
Vietnam Memorial adds four names
Cinco de Mayo on the Mall
NRA kicks off annual convention