Strader Playoff Blog for May 24th
Hello Panther Fans from Edmonton Alberta!!
So much for my prediction of Anaheim winning the Cup over Carolina in the Finals. The never say die Edmonton Oilers continue to find ways to win hockey games even when they don't play their best and at times when they aren't the best team on the ice. The Ducks have outshot (and, more importantly, outchanced) the Oilers in every game of this series. But Edmonton netminder Dwayne Roloson, the clear frontrunner in the west for Conn Smythe consideration as playoff MVP, has made every important save. Roloson was huge in the opening round win over the top seed Red Wings and continued his stellar play against San Jose, a series the Oilers trailed 0-2 before winning four straight. As much as I thought going into game 3 that this series would end in four if Edmonton won last night, the Ducks showed a tremendous amount of character to come back from a 4-0 third period deficit to make it a close game. I wouldn't be surprised if the Ducks get this back to southern California for a game 5, but the Oilers will not blow this series with a three games to none lead.
The NHL Radio experience has been a blast. It has taken a little time to adjust to calling a game on radio versus TV, but I think our team with myself, analyst Darren Pang and sideline reporter Ralph Strangis have improved with each broadcast. The atmosphere in the arena for game 3 was crazy and the broadcast booth in Edmonton offers one of the very best vantage points in the NHL.
It had been a while since I called a game from Rexall Place, the home of the Edmonton Oilers, so I was looking forward to getting back to one of the oldest and loudest venues in the NHL. I was only in my second and third years of covering the Detroit Red Wings when the team made back to back trips to the Western Conference finals in 1987 and 1988. Even though those Red Wing teams were overmatched by the powerful Edmonton teams of Gretzky, Messier, Kurri, Coffey, and Fuhr, I have many fond memories of calling games here.
In fact, a quick story about my trip from Detroit to Edmonton in May of 1988. My wife Colleen was expecting our twins, so I was reluctant to fly on the team charter right after game 4 in Detroit. I asked if I could wait and fly commecial two days later. My boss at the time was Jim Lites, now the president of the Dallas Stars. He asked the owners, Mike and Marion Ilitch, if I could fly on their private jet on the day of game 5 and return with them after the game. The Ilitchs said no problem, so I flew in style to Edmonton for game 5. The only problem was that we left about an hour later than planned because Mr. Ilitch had to attend to some business. As I looked at the flight plan and estimated arrival time on the screen aboard the Gulfstream jet, Mr. Ilitch sensed I was getting nervous. When he confirmed that we were landing at Edmonton International around 7:00pm local time (the game started at 7:30pm), I said I probably would be late for the game. He went into the cockpit and spoke to the captain. When he returned, he said everything was OK and I would get to the arena on time, but he offered no further explanation. When we landed in Edmonton, there was a stretch limo for the Ilitch family....and a helicopter for me! Three of my friends in the organization who were also on the plane joined me for the ten minute helicopter flight from Edmonton International to Edmonton City airport. Upon landing at City Airport, a black sedan took us to the Northlands Coliseum (the former name of Rexall Place). A security person at the building met me at the door and I was in the broadcast booth at 7:28pm. I tapped my partner Mickey Redmond on the shoulder and we hustled down to the on-camera position and we executed the live open as if we had rehearsed it all afternoon!
The Wings were eliminated that night and I flew back to Detroit in the Gulfstream jet. A couple of days later, the Strader twins arrived in this world (7 lbs each)! The date was May 25, 1988...so this blog is dedicated to my boys, Casey and Trevor, both of whom I am so very proud, as they turn 18 tomorrow.
If there is a game 5 in this series, I'll rejoin you from Anaheim. Otherwise, I'll have a series recap from home as we all await the Stanley Cup Finals!!!