Capitals fans have been graced with one of the best broadcasting duos in history for over a quarter-century now. Joe Beninati and Craig Laughlin have supplied the laughter, the excitement, the goals, and even a custom bottle of wine for more than half of the Caps’ storied franchise.
But how did they come together as a tandem in the booth? Beninati and Laughlin (fondly called ‘Joe B. and Locker’) discussed their origin story on the second episode of the "Told it Here!" podcast. The color commentator went first, relaying how he first stumbled into broadcasting during his playing days, often taking interviews during overtime periods while he was injured.
“I became sort of known to be doing these interviews after a while,” Laughlin said. “I got a call after my year in Germany, and I was told, ‘Hey, we’d like to try you out.’ I had never been to a studio. I had to come to town, fly in from Toronto, do a test. They said, ‘Just describe this game.’”
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Laughlin went on to define his technique, always having a ‘shtick,’ as he put it, during games in order to keep the listener interested. He always had clever lines to supply during play, which stemmed from his own on-ice career.
After consulting with his family, Locker decided broadcasting would be his next career after his back issues hindered his playing prospects.
“I was ripped relentlessly, they hated me,” Laughlin said of his early TV days. “I had to take voice lessons because they say I had too much Canadian in my voice…along the way, of course, I’ve had some UNBELIEVABLE play-by-play guys!”
Enter the venerable Joe Beninati. His days in Washington wouldn’t have been come to fruition if the Capitals’ previous play-by-play voice, Jeff Rimmer, hadn’t moved on to Florida.
“If Jeff Rimmer doesn’t leave Washington to go to Florida at the time, there’s no room for good ole Joe Beninati,” Beninati explained. “So Jeff Rimmer leaves, and while Joe is working in the American Hockey League, then at the time with the Providence Bruins, there’s an opening for a TV position in D.C…I apply, by some grace of God I am selected as the winner.”
But how did Joe and Craig eventually team up? They’re respective journeys hadn’t quite intersected yet, but chance would have it that Kenny Albert leaves his previous position—with Laughlin in the booth—to do Rangers Radio in New York City.
“Now there’s an opening on the TV side opposite of me, and I’m figuring, ‘Here we go!,” Beninati said.
Not quite. Laughlin shared a broadcast booth with Al Koken—who has been with NBC Sports Washington for decades—for a while before ever teaming with Beninati. Changes in management, though, would see the trio team up together, finally.
“All of a sudden, some bright individual sits there and says, ‘I think the best alignment on TV will be Joe, Craig, Al,” Beninati said. “And for that amount of time, it became Joe, Craig, and Al, and we started to smooth out all of that terrain. We learned to work well together with each other, and it became a partnership that’s been wonderful for a long, long time.”
Twenty-five years and a Stanley Cup ring later, the trio of Beninati, Laughlin and Koken still grace TV screens in the nation’s capital to supply the finest hockey broadcasting Capitals fans could want. Here’s to another 25 years.