Ask Anyone: Kolbe Is A Capital FellowPosted on December 11, 2009
By Dave Hughes, DCRTV.com
Kolbe, born in Baltimore’s Highlandtown neighborhood in 1967, just five blocks from that Patterson Park playground, has been the play-by-play voice of Capitals radio broadcasts since the 1997-98 season. Before that, he was a studio host for the Caps between 1995 and 1997, when the legendary Ron Weber was doing play-by-play.
Raised by his mother and aunt, Kolbe moved to Yale Heights near Catonsville and went to Mount St. Joseph, where he played football and hockey in the early 1980s.
Since Mount St. Joe didn’t have a hockey team, Kolbe played with the Baltimore Stars, a private club that took on high school teams throughout the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. region. He was a goalie then. “I’ll be a goalie all my life,” he said.
With relatives living in the Detroit area -- all Red Wings fans, by the way -- Kolbe went to Michigan State, where he majored in telecommunications. After graduating in 1989, he set out on his media path. Starting at the campus radio station, Kolbe said even back then, “I knew I was going to be a broadcaster somewhere.”
Kolbe headed back to the Baltimore area and quickly found a gig at a new sports talk radio station in Washington -- WTEM, when it was on 570 AM (now 980 AM).
“I came there in 1992, just after it signed on. I was a jack of all trades: producer, board op, did overnight shows,” he said.
When the Capitals moved to WTEM, Kolbe jumped on the chance. Soon, he found himself doing pre- and postgame shows with folks like Scott Linn. Back then, Weber (1974-97) called the Caps games.
“He was Mr. Hockey. He set the standard for all broadcasters,” said Kolbe of his sports radio idol. “Ron covered 1,939 games without missing a single minute. He taught the region the sport of hockey. He had to educate the listeners.”
The Capitals radio play-by-play team is a pretty selective club. Kolbe and Weber have been the only radio play-by-play men the Caps have ever had.
Now, Kolbe’s paired with analyst Ken Sabourn, who draws high praise from his microphone buddy.
Kolbe lives in the Harper's Ferry area of Frederick County. Sure, it’s a rather long commute to Washington’s Verizon Center, but he doesn’t have to battle rush hour traffic.
While a game broadcast airs for about three hours, between 10-14 hours of time go into each broadcast, including preparation. Plus, there are three to four games per week, half of them on the road. And it’s a long season, starting with training camp in August and lasting well into early spring for the playoffs.
Those Capitals broadcasts are heard locally on Washington’s 1500 AM, WFED, which covers Baltimore pretty well, and nationally on Sirius XM Satellite Radio. The Caps playoffs are also carried on Baltimore’s Fox 1370 WVIE.
Kolbe is employed by the Capitals, who are trying to get their radio network expanded.
“There’s a big fan base for the Caps in Baltimore,” he said. “There are great hockey fans in Baltimore.”
Kolbe has made many appearances in Charm City, including before a recent overflow crowd at the ESPN Zone. He even spent some time working on Baltimore sports talker 1300 AM, now WJZ-AM, during a hockey lockout a few years ago.
In his spare time, Kolbe plays the drums. He has spent 10 years studying percussion at Baltimore’s Peabody Conservatory. He also enjoys fishing and archery.
Kolbe’s contract is up at the end of the season, but it’s a given he’ll be back for the Caps’ radio games next season -- and for many to come.
Issue 144: December 2009