Ruminations on Dave Strader's Debut as Dallas Stars Play-by-Play Man
Tuesday night was the first chance Stars fans had to hear Strader behind the mic for a full game as their team's voice. It was different than the Ralph Strangis experience, but that's not a bad thing.
Sure, Tuesday's preseason Dallas Stars game was marketed by some as a chance to see Art Ross Trophy winner Jamie Benn on the ice for the first time since double hip surgery.
But long time Stars fans knew the real reason to tune in - the debut of Dave Strader on the team's broadcast duo. The game wasn't shown on television or via a stream, but it was available over the physical and digital radio airways on The Ticket.
It was the little things that stood out about Strader's first night behind the microphone as the play-by-play voice alongside long-time color man Daryl Reaugh.
It should be noted that as a radio-only game, the style of broadcast from both Strader and Razor was a little different than the typical television approach. There were no images to do the talking, no replays to illustrate a point, so the verbal interplay was a lot faster. In such cases, the play-by-play guy often takes on a much larger role.
From that perspective, the general banter between the two was spot-on. Strader did his job calling the plays and giving listeners a good sense of what was going on while also leaving plenty of room for Razor to do his thing. Highlights on the color end included the discussion of a feckless power play and a comparison of a 6-foot-5, 214-pound Blues player to a praying mantis.
Strader and Razor joked about having to work themselves into shape since they don't get training camp to warm up, but the exchange of conversation between the two flowed relatively smoothly. They weren't always in rhythm with a few moments of talking over each other, but there were signs of a very promising chemistry. When Razor declared an early third-period power play a must-score for the Stars, Strader played the straight man to a tee, intoning: "Your best hyperbole of the preseason."
It was clear Strader used to be a national broadcaster and still has some of those tics. Even deep into the second period, he would use the full name of the team as part of his play-by-play call. "The puck is deep in the Dallas Stars zone," for example. He also liked to remind viewers that Jamie Benn was indeed the Stars captain.
Those old habits are hard to break and more an amusing drinking game for a Stars fan (which fans will need on nights where they play like they did on Tuesday) than a criticism. Most of them will probably vanish as he gets back into the groove of seeing the same team every night.
The best comparison I can make is that the duo of Strader and Razor are like the Stars top line in Tuesday's game. You know they will be good - you can see the talent, they're generally enjoyable to listen to, and you know when they bust through, they will be brilliant - but there is a little bit of working out the kinks yet ahead of them. And that's what preseason games are for, right? Nothing amazing comes together without practice, especially with new and different pieces.
Different is probably the best word to use to describe the entire broadcast experience. Ralph Strangis was the only play-by-play voice most fans knew and had been a part of the broadcast team since the team moved to Texas. The change was bound to be a tiny bit jarring regardless of who took his place.
For instance, I did note a difference from Strangis that is neither better nor worse, simply a stylistic choice. When things got exciting, Strangis' voice tended to get higher in pitch while Strader tends to bite into his words more and up the tempo more than pitch. I saw the word guttural used, and it's an apt description.
But to Strader's credit, nothing that was different sounded wrong, if that makes sense. As a long time Stars fan, I will always miss what Ralph brought to the game (heck, he's reached first-name status among most of the fanbase) because it's what I grew up with and how I fell in love with this team, but I found Tuesday's game no less enjoyable, less listenable or less representative of Stars hockey with Strader at the helm.
And that's huge praise of his talent, as he has giant shoes to fill.
So what did you think of Strader's first night?