I have two stories to tell about Ralph Strangis. They aren't all-encompassing, and they aren't meant to hold him up on some kind of pedestal; they are memories that serve to reinforce how inextricably linked Strangis is to the Dallas Stars franchise, both in my mind and, I suspect, in most of yours.
1. It must have been something like 2008, because it wasn't too long after this game. The Stars had just finished beating the Kings in Los Angeles, and my brother and I had been there to see it. We were relieved that the demons of Staples Center had been exorcised, and so we peeled off our Stars sweaters--it had been a day game, and it was hot, like it usually is in Los Angeles--and drove back home to south LA county. In a good mood after the victory, and knowing that we had another Stars game to see in Anaheim the following night, we stopped at an In-N-Out just a few minutes from my house for a victory meal. It was early enough in the evening that the restaurant was still fairly empty, and so we sat down at a booth and took our time over the food, bringing up certain goals or saves as we relished the victory with each juicy bite of hamburger we took.
The meal was nearly over, but we weren't in a hurry to leave. And it was because we lingered there over our refilled sodas that I saw Ralph Strangis and a few other Stars personnel walk through the door and order from the counter. It took me a second to realize what I was seeing, and finally I did that "turn around, but casually, so it doesn't look like you're looking" thing with my brother. He did so, then confirmed that we were both seeing the same thing: Ralph Strangis ordering hamburgers at the same register I had stood at countless times since moving to LA in 2004. It was surreal.
We decided it wouldn't be too horribly fanboyish to ask for autographs, so my brother did the natural thing: he walked outside casually, then sprinted over to the Staples next door. It must have been about 5pm, because they were closing, and he had to madly gesture to the teenager behind the doors to open up, please, emergency. I, meanwhile, sat in In-N-Out, trying to remember which of the training or broadcast folks I was looking at, but really just working up the nerve to go say hi. After roughly sixty-five years of waiting, my brother finally returned with a Sharpie in one hand and wadded-up jerseys in the other. I'm sure Ralph had noticed by then that he was being effectively stalked, but he was still gracious and polite when we walked up to him as he stood there, waiting for his number to be called. We said hi, introduced ourselves, and spent a minute or two complimenting him on his work. I was nervous, so of course we ran out of conversation material pretty quickly and had to bashfully ask if he would mind signing our jerseys. Ralph not only said he would be happy to, but he also asked us if we would like to meet Razor. We probably squealed then said, yes, thank you, that would be just swell. He instructed us to walk out to said bus and provide the password to the guy who would greet us. We did so, and that is how we found ourselves holding small little cards with that picture of Razor in a dressing gown holding a scotch glass that used to be on the sidebar of his blog when Ralph and his crew returned to the bus with bags of In-N-Out. Both Ralph and Razor couldn't have been nicer, especially as I'm sure they were exhausted after working a game and having to prepare for another one the following night. We bid them farewell, and I still haven't figured out what the heck to do with that card thing Razor gave us. You can't really display that on your desk at work, y'know?
The next night, our seats happened to be at center ice just below the broadcast booths. As we walked up the steep Honda Center steps to our ticketed location, I happened to locate Ralph just as he looked down from the booth. I took off my hat and waved. He nodded in recognition and waved back with a smile. It was a good game.
2. My brother was going through his old videos from college a couple years ago, and he happened across one from a semester he spent studying in England in 2002. He told some stories about it being impossible to find pumpkin pie ingredients over there during Thanksgiving, and then he found a video he had taken of his flat for the purposes of showing our parents when he eventually came back home.
So this was around ten years later, and as he's showing me this footage of his study room, I suddenly notice something funny. He cranks up the volume, and sure enough, there's Ralph Strangis being streamed over NHL Radio during a study session in England. I think I got a kind of goofy grin just thinking about what that must have been like, hearing Ralph narrate Stars games over the internet in one of the least likely places I could ever imagine thinking about hockey, let alone following it play-by-play. That was such a long time ago.
So it occurs to me now that this is all we'll have of Ralph going forward: stories, clips, memories, and "remember that call?" We might well stumble across a random segment with his distinctive voice years from now--and here come the Stars!--when we couldn't be less prepared for that flashback to these past 25 years.
In fact, given the elite talent that's passed through the organization (and still getting started in it), I think it's quite possible that we'll still be shocked into reminiscing as we hear his voice popping up on certain players' goal montages or highlight reels well into the next decade or two. It won't be the same as experiencing those things with him, of course; nothing's the same after someone leaves, and Strangis couldn't be more aware of that fact.
Time is mischievous, though, and who's to say when we might be caught off guard someday, somewhere, by one of those trademark phrases that never felt forced--one of those iconic, heartfelt calls that so encapsulated the experiencing of watching or listening to Stars hockey? For goodness' sake, one of his last calls was also his most perfect, and all he had to do was say Jamie Benn's name a few times.
Sometimes, I guess there's only so much you can say. Maybe that's exactly how it should be.
We'll have much more on Ralph's departure in the coming hours and days, but for now, I present without comment a bunch of Tweets from last night reacting to the news:
Stars broadcasts won't be the same. He and Razor a fantastic duo. https://t.co/BDAzRxL00f— Tracey Myers (@TramyersCSN) April 24, 2015
Sorry to see Ralph Strangis leaving. It's the end of an era. Will really miss shooting the breeze with him at practices/morning skates.— Mark Stepneski (@StarsInsideEdge) April 24, 2015
@RalphStrangis I thought we were going boxing together?! Really sad news. You're a great person.— Patrik Nemeth (@nemgren) April 24, 2015
Ralph is one of the best broadcasters in the business. He was also one of the best people to me when I got to Dallas. Can't say enough (1/2)— Josh Bogorad (@JoshBogorad) April 24, 2015
Ralph is the best. I want whatever he wants, save for a good year for the Vikings.— Bob Sturm (@SportsSturm) April 23, 2015
* * * * *
Whoever ends up taking Ralph Strangis's spot will not be Ralph Strangis. We'll miss ya, Ralphie.
Mike Heika has some initial thoughts on Ralph, including a good collection of thoughts and links. [DMN]
Mattias Janmark has signed a 2-year, 2-way deal with the Stars, $734,000 (per year, I think). [Renaud Lavoie, Twitter]
Sean Shapiro has a great look at all the extra work Julius Honka is putting in to improve his game. Recommend this one. [Wrong Side of the Red Line]
James Mirtle uses Dallas as an example of why teams need as much goalie depth as they can get. This is an article about why it often doesn't work out to spend big on goaltending, so, surprise. [Globe and Mail]
The Predators staved off elimination for at least one night, taking a 5-2 win from Chicago in their own Tennessee barn. I believe this is the first time Nashville have ever won when facing elimination in the playoffs. Also, Filip Forsberg had a hat trick, which is a pretty great way to snub a Calder nomination snub. [NHL]
My newest defenseman-to-steal Karl Alzner scored one of the Capitals' five goals as they pulled ahead 3-2 in their series against the Islanders. [NHL]
Down 2-0, Tyler Johnson let the Lightning on a comeback against the Wings, and after two late goals and just 2:25 of overtime, Tampa Bay had made a full comeback as quick as [NHL]
The was a game in Vancouver last night. The Flames were trailing in the third when I went to bed, so I'm going to assume that means the Flames definitely won. [NHL]
Pass It to Bulis looks at how Willie Desjardins lost the benefit of the doubt in Vancouver. Rolling four lines can cut both ways. [PItB]
The Royal Half is doing their part to jinx the Ducks. I endorse this very highly. [Royal Half]
It sounds like Edmonton will soon be announcing the hiring of Peter Chiarelli. Word is they also want McLellan, but I just don't see how McLellan willingly submits to Craig MacTavish's authority, so until that gets figured out...well, just keep me posted, will ya? [Edmonton Journal]
Kerry Fraser says that penalties for multiple faceoff violations simply shouldn't happen. [TSN]
The Third Star of Winnipeg's final playoff game the other night? Well, it was the fans. Good for them. [CBC]
Finally, watch Casey Cizikas give Tom Wilson the Old Corey Perry. [SB Nation]