Now, the unmarried Beninati is as busy as ever, and his past week was one of the most frenetic of his year. Five nights before the Bruins game he was in Dallas, working a game between the Red Wings and Dallas Stars for Versus. Then he flew back to Washington for a Caps home game against the Edmonton Oilers. Then it was off to Pittsburgh, then back to Verizon Center for the Bruins game.
The Edmonton game posed a series of challenges for Beninati. The game itself was fast-paced from the start, testing his ability to juggle game action with the many announcements commonly inserted at the beginning of a broadcast. What’s more, Beninati had not seen the Oilers play this year, save for a handful of games on television.
But the game went off without an obvious hitch. Last names of Oilers players like Visnovsky, Grebeshkov and Brodziak rolled off Beninati’s tongue as if he had learned them by rote.
“That’s part of my skill and part of my trade,” he said after the Oilers’ 5-2 win. “I take pride in that. I try like all you-know-what to not make any mistakes. We should be able to identify the players even without their numbers. There are always little clues we’re looking for. I don’t need to see Sidney Crosby’s number 87. I just know it’s him. I know the way he skates.”
To prepare, Beninati usually spends the day at home or in his hotel reviewing stats, watching video or calling sources. All of the information he needs for the game is outlined on a single-page chart. On most game nights, Beninati arrives at the arena by 4:30 p.m. and immediately begins reviewing the promotional spots he will be voicing during the broadcast.
“The guy is relentless in terms of his preparation,” Bell said. “We all try to stay two or three games ahead, and I think Joe is two or three games ahead of that.”
Marc Fein, senior vice president of programming with Versus, praised Beninati’s level of prep work and said Beninati has an “unprecedented amount of knowledge about the NHL and college football.”
“He is one of those announcers who you can put into any on-air situation and know he’ll do a good job,” Fein said.
And for longtime Caps fans, Beninati’s ascension to the national scene is long overdue.
“For someone who has consumed more than a thousand of his broadcasts over the last couple of decades, it’s just been clear to me that he has just steadily risen,” said John Keeley, founder of On Frozen Blog, a Web site devoted to the Caps and the NHL. “I think he’s achieved that consensus designation of being a top-tier pro. Anybody who has consumed a full game or three of his games here in Washington would agree.”