Daryl Reaugh was preparing to work the broadcast of a Dallas Stars road game in Nashville on Tuesday, when a Nashville Predators fan approached the color commentator at Bridgestone Arena.
"He came up with his Predators jersey on and walked all the way up there, asked if he could have a minute," Reaugh said. "And all he had to say was, 'Can you get a message to Dave Strader? He's been my favorite forever and ever, and we miss him.'"
Many people miss Dave Strader.
For the first time since the 1970s, Strader, 61, isn't calling hockey games. He was a fixture in press boxes and on national broadcasts for four decades from Detroit to Arizona to Florida to Dallas, from ESPN to NBC, before he began his battle with cholangiocarcinoma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer that attacks the bile duct.
There's no cure for the disease, but it is treatable and Strader has been fighting it at home in New York since being diagnosed this summer. In Strader's absence, Reaugh has moved from his role as color analyst to interim play-by-play announcer. Less than two weeks into the season, well-wishes have become a common occurrence.
"It's not unique," Reaugh said. "Everywhere we go and everywhere we went in the preseason, people come and first ask how he's doing, and I always wish I had better news. And then they ask to relay a message that they're thinking about him. That's a pretty good measure of the man, I think."
It has added a bit more meaning to the game Saturday, when the Stars will hold their annual Hockey Fights Cancer Night at American Airlines Center, against the Columbus Blue Jackets (8 p.m. ET; FS-SW, FS-O, NHL.TV).
Strader's son, Trevor, will sing the national anthem, and the Stars will wear stickers on their helmets in the broadcaster's honor for the rest of the season. Fans will be able to fill out personalized cards to send to Strader, and Dallas will wear lavender jerseys in warmups that will be auctioned, with proceeds going to cancer-related organizations.
The theme for the night will be "I'm Fighting For," a nod to the fact cancer impacts so many people. Unfortunately, the Stars have had lots to fight for in recent years.
Last season, Dallas general manager Jim Nill's wife, Rebecca, conducted the ceremonial faceoff on Hockey Fights Cancer Night. Rebecca was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999 and beat the disease. Twelve years later, her cancer came back and she is fighting it. She has reached out and helped others with cancer, and has been a confidant for Strader during his battle.
"They've kind of hit a special bond," Jim Nill said. "They've kind of kept everything between them, and that's how it should be. It's important that we support him and we support the family, because it's tough, but we can use it to come together."
The Stars players also have reached out to Strader.
"Whether you're young or old, it happens and it's a terrible thing in this world," defenseman Jordie Benn said. "It takes away people's lives. It's nice to see, whether it's a puck drop or a little recognition to get the awareness out there, it's nice to see and it's the right thing to do."
Strader won't be able to attend the game, but he'll be watching from home, and the Stars are hopeful he'll call a game sooner than later this season.
"We're just keeping the seat warm," said Craig Ludwig, who has filled in as the color analyst with Reaugh doing play-by-play. "I'm just filling in for Razor and he's keeping the seat warm for Dave. We're all looking forward to having him back."