Two miles away from Verizon Center rests the Charles E. Smith Center, home of the George Washington Colonials. But for two weeks during the summer, the Washington Kastles, a WTT tennis team, takes over.
Saturday night, the last-place Kastles played their final home game of the regular season, falling to the Orange County Breakers 24-14. The Kastles, who won six championships during its first 10 years of existence, fell to 4-7 and have dropped four-straight matches.
But after the game, the entire organization gathered at center court, including coach Murphy Jensen and players Bruno Soares, Madison Brengle, Anastasia Rodionova, and Vasek Pospisil, to celebrate another successful season. Team owner Mark Ein praised the organization, including all the members of the game ops crew, in a touching speech. Ein called the franchise a model for many of the other teams in the WTT. He cited how proud he was of the family atmosphere the Kastles have created and how appreciative he was of the players, who have helped grow the game locally with their enthusiasm and graciousness with fans.
The Kastles contract several talented members of the Capitals game entertainment crew, which includes Capitals PA announcer Wes Johnson. During Ein’s speech, he presented Johnson, and four other unheralded members of the organization, with championship rings from the team’s 2013, 2014, and 2015 championship seasons.
Johnson was visibly choked up by Ein’s gifts. It was a complete surprise.
“I’ve worked as a professional sports announcer for over 20 years and never received a Championship Ring. UNTIL TONIGHT. I received THREE OF THEM,” Johnson wrote on Facebook and Instagram. “Thank you Mark Ein, it’s been an honor being the Arena Voice of the Kastles these past five seasons.”
After receiving the bling, Johnson put all three on his right hand, staring in disbelief. Six-time champion coach Murphy Jensen came over and congratulated Johnson, telling him he loved the 2014 ring the most. Johnson was infatuated with the 2015 ring which featured red rubies.
Johnson was also shocked that his last name was engraved on the side like he was a player.
Director of Game Operations Michael Wurman was also singled out by Ein and received three championship rings to add to the one he received in 2011. Wurman was the man who brought Johnson to the Kastles.
While tennis can be criticized as slow, the Kastles presentation of the sport is anything but. With a slick pregame video, fun in-game music, and constant interaction with the crowd, Kastles games, which have routinely sold out during their existence in DC, are loud and fun. For example, my four-month-old son Ethan only lasted inside the arena 25 seconds before having to taken to the concourse and consoled because fans were so engaged.
Wurman, who has a trophy case full of local Emmys for his work on CRL, was recently let go by the Capitals despite helping make Verizon Center one of the loudest and most fearsome arenas to play at in the NHL.
But on this Saturday, there was nothing but smiles despite the final score of the game. A collection of almost 50 staff members ended the night by putting their hands in and, on the count of three, shouting KASTLES!
“It’s been an honor to be involved with the Kastles and the Capitals throughout all these years,” Johnson said. “The rings are awesome, but the memories are priceless.”
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
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