From a healthy driving distance away, fans have watched a young Capitals team grow into a contender. Many in central Pennsylvania saw it from the perspective of their Hershey Bears getting the call and turning into NHL players … or coaches.
Or radio broadcasters.
John Walton served as the radio voice of the Bears until getting the call this past summer to fill the same role with the Caps. And he has begun the task of expanding Caps country up into his old area and further into the south. Part of the goal is to take over areas that used to be ceded to the rival Philadelphia Flyers or Pittsburgh Penguins.
"In central Pennsylvania, once you get outside of Philadelphia, it's really a third, a third, a third between Flyers, Penguins, Caps," Walton said. "To be able to have a Caps affiliate now for seven years in central Pennsylvania and watching Bruce [Boudreau] and [Bob Woods] and the players and now from a listening perspective even me, to be in Washington I think it certainly expanded the footprint there."
Dennis Mitchell, a morning radio host on 101.3 in Lancaster, Pa., seems to be the perfect target for Walton's endeavors. Mitchell grew up a Flyers fan — and a Hershey Bears fan — and has decided now to start rooting for the Caps.
"Seeing all the guys come through the organization, like [Mike] Green and Brooks [Laich] and end up in Washington and the coaches and now the voice, [the Caps are] a resemblance to a team from a few years ago," he said. "John was the icing on the cake."
The Caps are now on 10 radio stations not based in the District, where they have the flagship, 1500-AM and an HD radio feed with WTOP. Walton was particularly pleased with the recent addition of 102.1-FM and 1490-AM in Hampton Roads, Va., to bring in the Norfolk area.
"I think Virginia was Caps country to begin with, but now we're able to deliver it to them in a couple of different ways and hopefully a wider area," Walton said.
Studio host Ben Raby said the addition of 1370-AM in Baltimore has been big and that he has received at least one call from Baltimore on each postgame show so far. (The Washington Times has an agreement to appear on Capitals Radio, which begins Saturday on the "Saturday Night Caps" pregame show.)
Growth of the Caps as a brand and the fan base, though, is about winning as much as it is making it a pattern for fans to be able to watch and listen. Because many of these players, coaches and now the radio play-by-play man had success in Hershey can't hurt.
"Deep down inside," Mitchell said, "I'm hoping that lightning strikes twice with the same guys on a different team."
© Copyright 2015 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.