Dave Strader, the hockey broadcaster known affectionately as "The Voice," has died after battling bile duct cancer for more than a year. He was 62.
The Dallas Stars said Strader died Sunday at his home in Glens Falls, New York. Strader was a play-by-play man with the Stars and a national broadcaster on NBC Sports.
"He was a guy who made every team he was a part of better," said Sam Flood, executive producer and president of production for NBC and NBC Sports.
"What was unique about him was he wanted the analyst to be the star, and he took the time to make sure his analysts were in a position to get the focus and the spotlight. That’s a unique skill as a play-by-play guy to make sure that the stars of the game are the analysts, and he did it in a way with no ego, but loved the game and shared that love every time you watched a game that he broadcast."
One of Strader’s final public appearances was in Glens Falls on Sept. 16, where the press box at the 5,000-seat arena where he got his start calling games for the AHL’s Adirondack Red Wings was renamed in his honour. He received multiple standing ovations at that ceremony, and said he was deeply moved by the gestures.
"To have this happen where it all started is beyond anything I could have dreamed," Strader said that day according to The Post-Star of Glens Falls.
"I was going to be the next NBA guy. You have to have doors open for you, and you have to be willing to walk through those doors and have to be willing to do the job, but you also have to get lucky.
"I couldn’t imagine when I sat down to do that first game in ’79 — it was my first game — that I might even still be in hockey in five years, let alone 37 years."
Strader received the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award from the Hockey Hall of Fame this year. He’ll be honoured during Hall of Fame induction weekend in November.
"Dave Strader’s calls combined expertise, passion for our sport, the ultimate in professionalism and a calm command of the story of the moment," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. "Dave didn’t just describe the action for a viewer, he brought you to the rink to sit next to him."
Flood said NHL coaches embraced Strader as "the guy who was selling the game of hockey."
Stars president and CEO Jim Lites said Strader’s "voice is synonymous with hockey to fans all over the globe and he built a connection for so many fans to this game."
Strader previously was the broadcaster for the Detroit Red Wings, Arizona Coyotes and Florida Panthers and worked three Olympic Games.
"The loss of Dave will certainly be felt throughout the hockey community," Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said. "He was one of the most iconic play-by-play announcers of his time and a true gentleman. He was a devoted husband and father, and his presence will be sorely missed in arenas throughout the league."
The hockey community mourned Strader’s death Sunday with heartfelt messages from players, fellow broadcasters and executives. Philadelphia Flyers president Paul Holmgren called Strader a "one-of-a-kind announcer.
"Such a terrific person," Stars broadcast partner Daryl Reaugh tweeted. "So much love for his family, support for friends, time for all. And an absolute titan in a booth, a gondola or a perch."
While he was undergoing treatment for cholangiocarcinoma, Strader broadcasted a final few playoff games last season for NBC. Flood said it was a pleasure to see Strader back in his element, at the rink and in the booth.
"It meant so much to him and I think it gave him a spark last May and June when he was able to get back in the booth and call hockey games," Flood said. "It was great to hear him and the energy and the passion he had for it."
Flood said Mike Emrick will pay tribute to Strader on air Wednesday night when the NHL regular season begins.