There is one man held in the highest of regards within the confines of the Verizon Center. He is seen, and heard, at every home game and can change the momentum of a game with a single act. While it seems we are describing Alex Ovechkin, the man to which we are referring is none other than the Horn Guy, Sam Wolk.
Fans of all ages are instantly entralled when hearing three loud blasts echoing from the upper levels of the arena. So much so that minds are instantly filled with "LET'S GO CAPS" cheers when hearing a car honk three times in succession or even a ring emitting from an acquiantences' cell phone.
Rock the Red was recently able to speak with with Mr. Wolk, and pick his brain surrounding the mystique of the horn.
Rock the Red: How did the tradition of the horn start?
The Horn Guy: I originally brought the horn to games to make some noise during goal celebrations when I first became a season ticket holder. I'd had the horn since I was 14 years old but never really had a practical use for it. The arena was pretty empty back then unless the Playoffs were on and sometimes it just felt like it was too quiet in there. "Rock and Roll Part II" would play after a Caps goal, and when the chorus of "heeeeeeey" came about I'd blow the horn to add to the noise level. I'd also hit a blast when a Power Play happened; that techno song would start and then there'd be that pause followed by a loud "WHOOO" or something. I'd hit the horn on that yell.
Later on I became so impressed with how loud Goat was that I began echoing his cheers of "LET'S GO CAAAAAPS!" to get more fans involved. The fans began echoing me and Goat would get lost in the cacophony, so I began to hang back and let him do this thing. But if the time was right and he wasn't yelling, I would let go with three blasts and the fans would respond.
RtR: Have you worked out situations with Goat when each is to lead the cheer?
THG: No, we pretty much just go when we feel like it. I try not to step on his toes, and maybe he does the same. We've never really discussed it. A few times the camera guys would try to get us on the telescreen at the same time, like a split-screen thing, and a few times he and I were able to coordinate. But the last time they did it we were both kind of lost and it sounded pretty bad. No rhythm at all!
RtR: How do you determine when to blow the horn?
THG: I've always just gone by feel, although I do have some rules I hold myself to. I don't blow it when we're short-handed or on a Power Play, only even strength. I try not to get going when the Caps are under a lot of pressure in their own zone. I wait for a lull in the crowd's energy. If I feel like the team could use some boost from some more noise I hit it.
RtR: Do a lot of fans recognize you? If so, what do they say to you?
THG: I do get recognized at the games a lot, but it happens more often if I'm walking around and they see the horn with me. If I leave it at my seat and walk around there's less recognition. Most fans just want to hi-five me and tell me they love what I bring to the game. Some want pictures of me, or pictures of me with them or with their kids. It's kind of strange but it's nice to know so many like what I do.
RtR: Do you have any superstitions surrounding the horn?
THG: I'm not a superstitious person, but I do have some spare horns in storage in the unlikely event that my horn gets damaged. The original horn that I began to bring to the games in 1999-2000 was actually destroyed by some angry Penguins fans many years ago. The one I currently use was given to me by Goat.
RtR: Do you keep it somewhere specific when not in use?
THG: I just hold it in one of my hands, or it sits between my feet.
RtR: I've noticed very few games when you're not in attendance. How many have you missed in the recent past?
THG: I've only missed two games this season; once it was my birthday and I had other plans, and once I was too ill to attend. I might miss one game a season, if that. Most years I'm at every home game.
RtR: When you can't attend, how did you determine not to allow a friend to use the horn?
THG: Well, no one I know can blow it as loud as I can. I have given horns to friends in the past, but it's not the same. I'm full of hot air, what can I say?
RtR: I've heard another horn at some games, yet most fans don't cheer when prompted by that person. How does it make you feel that you have imitators?
THG: It doesn't really bother me at all. Sometimes it's just a young kid who is emulating me and a small diaphragm is just not going to generate the pressure needed to get a real good loud blast going. If people want to make noise during the games I'm all for it. I know some folks, a lot of folks, are annoyed by horn imitators because they tell me so. But I figure the most sincere form of flattery is imitation.
RtR: When it's time for you to hang up your horn, will you pass the tradition on?
THG: If someone is willing to pick up where I've left off I'd be all for it, why not? That person needs to be loud, patient, have a good ear for the flow of the game and the crowd's energy levels, and hopefully have a good sense of rhythm.
RtR: What do you think is the key to the Capitals post-season success?
THG: Defense and goaltending must be on top of their game. The offense is there. The Caps just need to really shore up their own zone. As my wife said before the season began, and it's still appropriate now, "either our goalies should be stellar, or not have to be." The defensive corps have to keep the rubber out of the crease, keep the attackers outside, and they need to be responsible for their end.
RtR: Who do you think will play for the Stanley Cup from the Western Conference?
THG: I'm leaning toward Chicago, but you never know about Detroit. They just seem to know how to get things done.
Many thanks to the Horn Guy for taking time to speak with us. Additionally if you have any further questions for him, be sure to leave them in the comments section and we will have them answered for you. We also suggest following him on twitter.