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Dave Strader 'overwhelmed' by Hall of Fame broadcasting honor

NHL announcer was diagnosed with bile duct cancer in May

by Tom Gulitti @tomgulittinhl / Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- Initially, it didn't seem odd to Dave Strader that he got a phone call from Chuck Kaiton earlier this month, because the longtime Carolina Hurricanes play-by-play announcer has checked in on him regularly since Strader was diagnosed with bile duct cancer in May.

But after the usual "How are you feeling?" start to the conversation, Kaiton said, "Well, I think I've got something that might make your day a little better."

"As soon as he said that, I was like, 'Chuck, what are you calling about here?'" Strader said Friday during a break in his preparations to call the play-by-play in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference First Round series between the Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs at Verizon Center for NBCSN (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports 2, CSN-DC).

Kaiton is also the president of the NHL Broadcasters' Association, and the main reason for his call was to inform Strader, 61, that his peers had voted him this year's winner of the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award for outstanding contributions as a hockey broadcaster.

Video: Dave Strader returns to the Stars' booth

"I was overwhelmed," Strader said. "I told him, 'You know what? One thing I haven't done much during this whole process is cry.' I said, 'You just broke that streak.'"

Kaiton called Strader on April 10, and the official announcement wasn't made until Monday, so Strader kept it a secret for a week from everyone outside his family and about a dozen friends and colleagues he called Sunday. 

"It was just something that was not on my radar," Strader said. "They usually don't announce it until later, but I think the committee wanted to give me some extra time to make plans for whatever treatments or whatever I might have going on. I said, 'Hey, it gives me another date on the calendar that I can tell the doctors I've got to be ready for Nov. 13.'"

That's when Strader will be recognized at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto as a Media Honoree along with longtime writer Cam Cole, who will receive the Elmer Ferguson Award for excellence in hockey journalism. Their plaques will be displayed in the Esso Great Hall at the Hall of Fame with those of other recipients. 

Strader, who is nicknamed "The Voice" for his smooth baritone, became the Dallas Stars' television play-by-play announcer to begin the 2015-16 season. The native of Glens Falls, New York, began his 38-year career with Adirondack of the American Hockey League in 1979. From there, he went to the Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Arizona Coyotes and the Stars. 

Video: TBL@DAL: Stars salute Dave Strader in return to booth

Strader, who also has worked for ESPN, ABC and NBC, said receiving the Foster Hewitt honor means everything to him.

"I was a basketball guy growing up," he said. "Marv Albert was my first real broadcasting hero and I had never attended a live hockey game when I was first hired in Adirondack at age 23. Dan Kelly was probably the first national voice that I listened to a lot and one of the all-time greats still and Bob Cole [from "Hockey Night in Canada"] and Bruce Martin in Detroit. A lot of the team broadcasters from that era were the guys that I tried to listen to just to try to pick up some of the best practices."

Strader said he also has relied heavily on his color commentators such as Mickey Redmond, Denis Potvin, Darren Pang, Brian Engblom and Daryl Reaugh. He said it is very humbling to be included among past Foster Hewitt recipients such as Kelly, Cole, Danny Gallivan and Mike Emrick, broadcasters he regards as the finest in hockey.

"Those guys are like here," he said, holding up his hand. "And it's nice for the rest of us to get recognized, but I consider them the best."

Because of his health, the five Stars home games Strader called in February, including one for NBC, were the extent of his work this season until NBC Sports executive producer Sam Flood gave him the opportunity to call the games at Verizon Center during the Capitals-Maple Leafs series.
That worked well for Strader because it's an easy flight from Albany, New York, to Washington. 

"Just to be out on the road and connect with all of the guys I haven't seen or I didn't see those five games I did in Dallas, it's been great therapy," Strader said.

The good news is Strader said he feels "as good as I have since I began the full process." He said that's partly because of the timing. He completed his last round of chemotherapy about a month ago.

Video: NHL Now discuss the Dallas Stars gesture to Strader

Strader has an appointment at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston next week to meet with one of the doctors in charge of the first phase of clinical trials there.

"That's the next step for really anybody in my position or sometimes even earlier in the process," he said. "These are the trials that offer targeted therapy and immunotherapy that can do some amazing things."

In the meantime, he's enjoying being back in the broadcast booth. He would also call Game 7 of the Capitals-Maple Leafs series Tuesday if it is necessary.

"That's as much as I expect because [NBCSN] will be down to their regular roster of guys [after that]," he said. "But this has been wonderful."

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