GLENS FALLS — Dave Strader, who rose from the hallways of Glens Falls High School to the broadcast booths of the NHL, died Sunday morning at age 62.
Strader began his career as the first voice of the Adirondack Red Wings before moving up to handle television play-by-play for the Detroit Red Wings. He later worked for several NHL teams and virtually every national network that’s broadcast the sport.
Strader was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma, a rare form of cancer in the bile duct, in the summer of 2016. He returned to the booth, however, to call five Dallas Stars games during the 2016-17 season and later did two Stanley Cup playoff games for NBC Sports.
Strader was honored with the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award from the Hockey Hall of Fame in April for outstanding contributions as a broadcaster. He’s a member of the Adirondack Hockey Hall of Fame, and just recently, the press box at Cool Insuring Arena was named after him.
“The loss of Dave will certainly be felt throughout the hockey community,” Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said in a statement. “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.”
Strader’s career had him crisscrossing North America as he called games for Detroit, the Florida Panthers, the Phoenix Coyotes, and most recently, the Dallas Stars. He also did play-by-play for ESPN, ABC, FOX and VERSUS; sometimes full-time, sometimes while he was working for other teams.
He called hockey games during the Olympics, and for almost two decades, did the Stanley Cup Finals for NHL International. He also did play by play for basketball games at various levels along the way.
But he never forgot his hometown, and even while working in various locations, he kept his home in Queensbury or Glens Falls. When the Hometown Classic was held at the Glens Falls Civic Center in 2010, featuring Jimmer Fredette’s BYU team, Strader was the natural selection to lead the broadcast for CBS Sports Network.
“Dave was the quintessential guy who never forgot where he came from,” said Mike Kane, who covered hockey for the Schenectady Gazette and wrote the book “Minor in Name Only,” about the early days of the Adirondack Red Wings.
It was in Glens Falls that Strader got his start, as an employee of the new hockey team that debuted at the Civic Center in 1979. He was a graduate of the University of Massachusetts whose background was in basketball. He had no experience whatsoever calling hockey games. In an oft-told story, Strader would sit in the spotlight perch during scrimmages and exhibitions, practicing his play by play.
“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 said earlier this year.
Strader did much more than broadcast games for the Red Wings. Doug Burch, another early employee of the team, remembered getting up early in the morning and going out with Strader to sell season tickets. Strader was also responsible for public relations and earned the AHL’s Ken McKenzie Award for front-office professionals during the 1983-84 season.
But it was broadcasting where Strader earned his fame, developing quickly into a polished and respected play-by-play announcer. Somewhere along the way, he became known as “The Voice” — former trainer Dave Casey said it probably came from the players — a nickname that never left him. Those around the early Red Wings teams said they could see he had a future as a broadcaster.
Claude Legris, a goalie on the first Adirondack team, said he didn’t know Strader didn’t have a hockey background until later.
“He stepped right in,” Legris said, “it was unbelievable what he did.”
The move to Detroit came in 1985 and started him on a three-decades-plus career broadcasting NHL games. He was respected by those in the profession, including Barry Melrose, a former Red Wings player and coach who became a hockey commentator and analyst.
“I really enjoyed listening to him, that’s the best tribute you can give to a play-by-play guy,” Melrose said. “He was always very generous to his color guy. He gave the color guy a chance to jump in and talk. You noticed that.”
Condolences poured in from around the hockey world after Strader’s death became public.
“There are 30 play-by-play broadcasters in the American Hockey League who want to be Dave Strader,” AHL president and CEO Dave Andrews said on the league’s website. “In hockey and in life, Dave was a role model and a true inspiration.”
“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.”
Dozens of players and fellow broadcasters posted messages about Strader on Twitter. Said Stars analyst Daryl Reaugh: “Such a terrific person. So much love for his family, support for friends, time for all. And an absolute titan in a booth, a gondola or a perch.”
At the press box ceremony in September, Strader and his wife Colleen announced establishment of the Dave Strader Scholarship that they started together. It will be given annually to a Glens Falls High School student.
Donations may be sent to Janice Casey, treasurer, Glens Falls City Schools, 15 Quade St. Glens Falls, 12801.
Funeral arrangements are pending.