When Washington Capitals fans return to Capital One Arena next month for the beginning of the new season, a fan favorite who’s been with the team for more than two decades won’t be there. The team will no longer have an organist playing for the crowd.
The sound of a live organ player driving the crowd has been a constant at Caps home games since the team first hit the ice in 1974, and for the past 22 seasons, the man behind that organ has been Bruce Anderson
“To be able to play at the games and to, you know, have the fans cheer and chant and things like that – really like nothing else, no other experience you can imagine from a music standpoint,” he said.
Anderson got the gig after he sold the team a new organ in 1999.
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The classically trained musician has been teaching music for more than 40 years. He’s disappointed about losing his night job but not bitter.
“I would have liked to have, you know, one more season at least,” he said.
In a written statement, the team announced, “Ahead of the 2022-23 season, we decided not to bring back the live portion of the organ. We are continuously finding ways to transform the in-game experience, including having professionally recorded organ songs and prompts. We thank Bruce for his contributions to the organization and wish him the very best.”
Fans like Arif Durrani, a lifelong Caps fan and a professional musician, hate to see Anderson go.
“He helps the crowd know what to do,” Durrani said. “You know, the Caps chant, ‘Let’s go Caps,’ or, just, I love that old-style organ music, the ballpark music, and I’m going to be sad the live portion of it is going to be gone. I guess they’ll still play recorded stuff, but it’s kind of cheating.”
“He’s actually an institution,” he added.
Anderson has a lot of memories over the past two decades.
“Certainly, winning the Stanley Cup was the No. 1 memory, I have to say, and I got a ring from that and got to march in the parade,” he said.
“Playing at the Winter Classic at the Nationals Park, which was the biggest crowd, I think 50,000 people, it was the biggest crowd I ever played for, you know, national TV and that kind of thing,” he said.
When the Caps take to the ice for their first home game without a live organist, Anderson will be wearing his championship ring and watching his team.
“I’ll be cheering them on,” he said.
Anderson was planning to keep working until Alex Ovechkin finished his career and then retire. He has no plans to stop teaching music and looks forward to catching a Caps game from the stands this season.