GLENS FALLS — One of the more touching moments in a Saturday morning ceremony filled with them came when the Dave Strader Press Box dedication at Cool Insuring Arena moved from the lobby to the rink itself.
As the people in attendance started to enter, two teams of youth hockey players on the ice were quickly shooed to the end lines to watch the video tributes to the Glens Falls native who has achieved national and international fame for his hockey broadcasting. After each one, the youngsters gave the traditional taps on the ice with their sticks — the ultimate hockey salute to someone who started out as a basketball guy.
When the video montage was finished, Dan Burke, the president of the Adirondack Civic Center Coalition, told the people the ceremony would continue in the lobby, “unless you want to call the pee wee tryouts, Dave.”
Strader laughed, but there was a glint in those great eyes of his that, for just a second, made you think he might.
About 200 people attended the ceremony to honor Strader, a member of the Adirondack Hockey Hall of Fame who was the first professional broadcaster at the Glens Falls Civic Center as the voice of the Adirondack Red Wings from 1979 to 1985.
Strader received standing ovations upon his entrance to the lobby, the unveiling of the sign above the door to the newly named press box and both before and after his speech.
“To have this happen where it all started is beyond anything I could have dreamed,” Strader said. “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.”
Strader said his first good luck came when he and his wife Colleen, living in California at the time, found out that Glens Falls was building an arena. One thing led to another, and Strader had his foot in a door that opened up to a 37-year career.
“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.
After leaving the Adirondack Red Wings, Strader went on to call NHL games with Detroit, Florida, Phoenix and Dallas, as well as with national networks ESPN, ABC, Fox and NBC. At NBC, Strader broadcast NHL games as well as hockey for the 2006 and 2014 Winter Olympics.
It was the story of Strader’s first hockey broadcast, from his analyst at the time, Jim Brennan, that provided a lot of smiles and chuckles on Saturday. After Strader told Brennan that it was his first time calling a hockey game, Brennan was worried and asked Strader how he was related to Ned Harkness, the executive director of the Civic Center and general manager of the team.
“They drop the puck,” Brennan recalled. “The first 30 seconds I’m stunned. He’s on the play, got the terminology, got the cadence in his voice, he’s got the little egg timer: you turn it over and when the sand hits the bottom, it’s time to give the score. At that point, the heightened sensation of potential gloom disappeared and I was able to get back to my job.”
Brennan relayed the story about how years later, his two sons came into the room when he was watching an NHL game being broadcast by Strader. He explained that he used to work with him.
“The older son says, ‘that’s pretty cool.’ And I thought, ‘yeah, that was pretty cool.’ So Dave, thank you for one of the pretty cool moments.”
Strader confirmed he wasn’t related to Harkness in an amusing anecdote.
“He was paying me 11 grand to do one job,” Strader said. “He said, ‘I’ll tell you what. I’m going to give you a second job, and if you cut my grass, you can call the games.”
The video tributes to Strader included two of his calls with Adirondack, including the final seconds of its first Calder Cup championship, and words of congratulations from such people as Dallas Stars President Jim Lites, Pittsburgh Penguins all-star Sidney Crosby, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHL broadcaster Mike “Doc” Emrick.
The ceremony also included a mention of the Dave Strader Scholarship that he and his wife Colleen have started. It will be given annually to a Glens Falls High School student (donations to the scholarship may be sent to Janice Casey, treasurer, Glens Falls City Schools, 15 Quade St., Glens Falls).
Strader was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in the bile duct in June 2016. He returned to the booth, however, in March 2017 to call five Dallas Stars home games and two Stanley Cup playoff games for NBC Sports. In April, he was honored by the Hockey Hall of Fame as the 2017 Foster Hewitt Memorial Award winner for outstanding contributions as a hockey broadcaster.
Strader said the decision to go public with the news of his cancer was difficult, but he drew strength from fellow broadcasters Jim Valvano, Stuart Scott and Craig Sager and their fights with cancer. When the Stars’ players saluted Strader in his first game back, he recalled the words of his analyst, Daryl Reaugh.
“He came up, ad-libbed as he always does, ‘Cancer’s got nothing on you, Dave Strader,’ ” an emotional Strader said. “And I look around here.”
The rest of the words were lost to the ovation.