Capitals organist Bruce Anderson lets go after 22 seasons

Bruce Anderson had seen his playing time dwindle in recent years, but the longtime Washington Capitals organist was eagerly awaiting his 23rd straight season to entertain fans when he received a call on Tuesday that his services would not be available. would be more necessary.

“I’m not bitter,” Anderson, 67, said in a phone interview. “I’m just sad. It was a great experience. They decided to go in a different direction, and that’s fine with me.

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Anderson, who shared the news on Twitter and Facebook, said he was “blown away” by the response from fans, most of whom expressed disappointment with the decision. A Capitals spokesperson has confirmed that the team will not feature live organ music this season.

“We are continually looking for ways to transform the playing experience, including professionally recording songs and organ prompts,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “We thank Bruce for his contribution to the organization and wish him the best.”

Hockey and organ music have gone hand in hand for much of NHL history, with the Chicago Blackhawks presentation of a live organist at Chicago Stadium in 1929. The Capitals employed an organist at the Capital Center when the franchise debuted in 1974, and Ted Leonsis was adamant about continuing the tradition after buying the team in 1999.

“[Washington Sports & Entertainment President Susan O’Malley] don’t think we need an organ,” Leonsis said at the time. “I think we need an organ.”

Looking for a new instrument later that year, a group of Capitals visited Jordan Kitt’s Music store in College Park, where Anderson worked as director of education. Anderson demonstrated the organ for the team and was asked to play it in the arena during a preseason game.

“Since then, I’ve been there,” he says.

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Over his 22 seasons, Anderson prided himself on his ability to mix traditional hockey songs and team songs, including “Let’s Go Caps”, featuring classic rock, pop and other more contemporary music. When the Capitals hosted World Series champion Washington Nationals for a game in 2019, Anderson quickly learned “Calma,” the Pedro Capó reggaeton hit that served as the team’s unofficial clubhouse anthem during their run. On title.

In recent seasons, Anderson has played less and less during games. Capitals hired a new director of games presentation before last season, which led to other changes, including stopping organ music after Washington’s goals.

“I don’t know if it’s a trend or not, but I think some arenas want it to be more techno and EDM,” said Anderson, who added that he enjoys working with the Capitals’ in-game DJ. “The only time I could perform would be under Papa John’s and Chick-fil-A ads. A lot of the creativity was undermined.

But Anderson, who owns the Lutherville School of Music in Maryland, I never thought about quitting — not while Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin was still playing, anyway.

“I was perfectly happy to do it, even in a diminished role,” he said. “I love watching the games and I’ve seen Ovi throughout his career. I was hoping to retire when Ovi retired, and at least on my own terms. But they just don’t use the game. living organ.

Anderson said working at the 2015 Winter Classic at Nationals Park and the 2018 Stanley Cup Finals are among the highlights of his tenure with the team. He also fondly remembers the time legendary play-by-play player Mike “Doc” Emrick recognized his handiwork in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals at Capital One Arena.

“You know, they bother to play organ music,” Emrick said as Anderson played before a face-off. “I just like to hear it once in a while.”

Over the next few months, Anderson, who lives near Baltimore, plans to do something he’s done exactly once in the past 22 seasons: attend a Capitals game purely as a fan.

“All the staff there, especially the game production staff who I deal with a lot, are good friends of mine,” he said, “so I really want to come see them in action.”

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