Memories. We all have them. Some of us remember yelling at our cousin at our 4th birthday party for unwrapping gifts. Others remember the moment they got engaged, 50 years after the fact. Some memories stick with us forever.
"Foote rink-wide to... it's broken up! Ott, for the win!" Horns blaring.
"Benn... Benn... BENN!"
Memories tend to be more vivid if there is an emotion associated directly with a particular event. For instance, I can't remember the first time I saw a cat, because I don't care. But I remember the first time I put on a football helmet like it was yesterday.
Ralph Strangis was in the broadcast booth for the Dallas Stars for 25 years. If you are a fan of the Dallas version of the Stars, you have heard him on the air from the beginning; starting in 1993 as a color analyst along side Mike Fornes transitioning to play-by-play role in 1996.
The thing that made Ralph unique was his ability to move seamlessly in and out of the intensity of the game. He was just enough of a homer to tug at our heartstrings. The way he said, "He scored!" was just as enthusiastic whether it was the Stars or their opponents, but if you played 50 different clips of him saying it I could always tell you when it was a Stars goal.
My family got cable for the first time about five years ago. So for most of my life as a Stars fan, Strangis was my connection to the team. No 1080 whatever TV, no slow motion instant replays. I was either in a seat, or listening to Ralph call a game.
Most of my Stars memories were Ralph telling me why to be happy or sad. There was nothing like an overtime playoff game with Ralph behind the mic. My memories were bound closely to the emotions he drew out of me. Out of my soul.
I was crushed when he announced his retirement in the offseason.
How could anyone replace him?
When the Stars said that Dave Strader would be Ralph's replacement, I had mixed emotions.
Sure, he was a big national name, and that's great. But the guy that did this would never be Ralph.
I imagine it is really difficult moving from a national broadcast to a local broadcast. Nationally, you are expected to be equally enthusiastic about both teams to the degree that it builds the desired narrative. Locally, fans require a certain degree of homer-ality. I know Duncan Keith is really good; don't spend three hours making sure I know that.
On top of the transition from national to local, Strader had to deal with one of only two sets of broadcasters in the NHL have to: he does simulcast. For those that don't know, there aren't many NHL teams use the same crew for radio and TV; the Buffalo Sabres and the Dallas Stars. End of list.
Then, Strader called opening night against the Pittsburgh Penguins. My heart was softened, but not melted. I thought, "Okay, he is fine. I will get over this in five years".
Daryl Reaugh is larger than life. He is a play-by-play color analyst the likes of which is not often seen in professional sports. Operating with a guy like that requires what Ralph had: the ability to get out of the way.
Strader and Razor fit together like two peas in a pod.
It is hard to explain why the chemistry has worked and been apparent so quickly. They never stumble over each other. Strader allows him to have a Razer-gasm after a windmill save. When something amazing happens, the sound of their excitement doesn't clash, it sings.
To be fair, Strader has had his struggles at times adjusting to the simulcast. Sometimes on radio, the action will be lost for four or five seconds, and Strader quickly updates the listener sometimes setting him behind the pace of the game. This can be forgiven. It is not hard to over-commentate a TV game, and that has probably been drilled into him for years at NBC.
Personally, I don't get Fox Sports Southwest Plus with my cable provider, so I have had my fair share of experience listening to Strader on radio as well as seeing him on television. Like Jamie Benn and John Klingberg, he gets better every game.
So, back to the Razer and Strader marriage. How is it really working?
There is a commercial where Strader and Razor banter a bit trying to decide on a nickname.
1) This commercial perfectly displays their personalities and how they mix vocally on the air.
2) The nickname is right there for the taking.
A close second place would be Rader, but the fact that it is spelled incorrectly really bothers me. Ralph and Razor was symbiotic with the Dallas Stars for years, but they didn't have a nickname like Strazor. They were always just R&R.
To some degree, maybe Strader has risen in the hearts of Stars' fans because the team is awesome in his first year at the commentator, but I believe it is more than that. Strader does the little things right. He has his catchphrases, but he doesn't ram them down your throat. He seems to be invested in the team.
His talent in a vacuum was never discounted. Clearly, he knows how to call a hockey game. But the way he has seamlessly integrated with a local broadcasting legend and mastered the ability to timely homer the hell out of a call has won me over.
The broadcasting has been more than fans could have wanted. Make no mistake, there are guys that would have come in and overrun Razor; they would have kept their 100 percent unbiased tone, and they would have rammed opponents' players down our throats. Strader has absolutely won my adoration by finding the perfect balance of enjoyable to listen to for neutral fans and passionate enough for the home crowd.
Do I miss Ralph? That is a complicated question. I miss the emotions he drew out of me. I miss the memories. But the feelings Strader and Razor have gotten out of me are just as sweet in their own way. There will never be another Ralph, but I believe the Strader era will be just as incredible in its own way.
Here's to Strazor calling the next Stanley Cup.