Jan. 25, 2000 - The late Stars voice Dave Strader reminisces about his time at UMass

  • This April 4, 2011 image released by NBC Universal shows announcer Dave Strader for "NHL on Versus," in New York. Strader died Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, at his home in Glens Falls, N.Y., after battling bile duct cancer for over a year. He was 62. (Virginia Sherwood/NBC Universal via AP) Virginia Sherwood

Published: 10/2/2017 7:07:13 PM

I spoke to Dave Strader a handful of times when he was still doing college basketball games for ESPN and was saddened to hear he lost his battle with cancer this weekend.

The Dallas Stars play-by-play man was terrific on the air, always pleasant off it and loved reminiscing about his time at UMass.

After graduating in 1977, his first time back in Amherst was to call a game in January, 2000 and I caught up with him for the story below from Jan. 25, 2000:

— Matt Vautour

UMass alum calls ‘em like he sees ‘em for ESPN

AMHERST - When they passed one another in the Mullins Center hallway at halftime Saturday, Dave Strader joked with Jack Leaman.

“Hey Coach, Jim Town and Mark Donoghue looked pretty good out there,” Strader said, drawing a laugh from Leaman.

Twenty-three years ago, Leaman was the coach of the University of Massachusetts men’s basketball team and Town and Donoghue were the star players on that squad. Strader, a senior at UMass, was the voice of the Minutemen for student station WMUA.

Currently Leaman, now retired, serves as the color commentator for WHMP and Strader is a play-by-play man for ESPN.

After getting his diploma, Strader had one career goal.

“All I ever wanted to do was play-by-play. I never wanted to be a sportscaster, write stories, sit at a desk and read a teleprompter,” Strader said. “I wanted to do play-by-play. I was very fortunate to get into that specific field.”

He broke into the business in his hometown of Glen Falls, N.Y., as the voice of the Adirondack Red Wings.

After six years in the minors, Strader got called up to the NHL, tabbed as the TV play-by-play voice of the Detroit Red Wings in one of the most hockey-crazed cities in America.

His prowess calling a game got the attention of ESPN, which hired him full time in 1996 and made him their No. 1 NHL hockey announcer on the sister station ESPN2. Now 45 years old, Strader does about 70 games a year for the network, of which about 55 are hockey.

“When I first went to ESPN, one of the first things I asked them was if I would be able to do some college basketball,” Strader said. “They said there were no guarantees because I was coming in to do hockey. But they said if there was a chance, they’d fit me in.”

They’ve fit him in several times. He did his first UMass game in more two decades last year, when the Minutemen played at La Salle, but Saturday was his first game on campus.

“It was kind of a strange feeling coming back here because this is what I trained to do,” Strader said. “I was a communications major and worked four years at the college station. My freshman year (Rick) Pitino was the point guard and Al Skinner was the star player on the team. I did the color my junior year and did the play-by-play my senior year.

“I wanted to be able to see them practice Friday at the Cage, because that’s where all the games were played when I was here,” he added. “But I wasn’t able to make it over.”

The timing of Saturday’s game was both coincidental and convenient because it allowed Strader to help his oldest son Chris, a freshman at UMass, move back into his dorm.

“Chris is a chemical engineering major,” Strader said proudly. “A friend of mine said UMass has a very good chemical engineering program, which I wasn’t really aware of. So we came to see the campus and Chris loved it right away and got offered to become part of the Commonwealth College. He ended up choosing here and it’s been great.”

Chris’ presence at UMass has given Dad plenty of opportunities to reminisce.

“I lived in Southwest, which blew Chris’ mind right away,” said Strader, who was in Amherst during the campus’ rowdier days. “I lived on the sixth floor of Kennedy the entire four years. He visited all the different areas and said, ‘How’d you get any work done?’ and I said, “It wasn’t always about work when we were here.”

“I’m amazed how much the campus looks the same except for the Mullins Center,” Strader continued. “Amherst has grown up a little bit. There’s more down there then when I was there. It’s changed, but there are still a lot of the same things.”

Twenty-three years later, Strader credits his time at WMUA for launching a successful career.

“WMUA was the best thing about my entire experience here,” he said. “I took some great courses. Public speaking was a great help. But it’s like anything else: The theory is all fine ... I did a regular sports report all four years. The station gave me the opportunity to cover the team.”

Strader will get to pass Leaman in the hallway one more time this year. He’ll catch up with the Minutemen in Cincinnati to call the Xavier game on Feb. 12.

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