Ralph Strangis spent 25 years providing play by play for the Dallas Stars organization before stepping away from the microphone following the 2014-15 season. The veteran broadcaster who called Brett Hull’s overtime, Stanley Cup-clinching goal in 1999 was named as one of the accomplished voices who will fill in for Hall of Fame Kings play by play man Bob Miller, who is not traveling on road trips that include Eastern Conference cities this season.
It was a pleasure to get to know Ralph on the most recent trip, and his appreciation towards the players, media and staff who traveled was reciprocated eloquently and with grace. Having written creatively and acted since stepping away from the microphone, he shared a short story with LA Kings Insider about his week spent calling games in Columbus, Nashville and Dallas. He’ll return to the booth for the game in Carolina on January 26, which will be broadcast on FOX Sports West.
Back In The Irons
I thought a lot about Eddie Maple last week…
It’s October 28, 1973 and as one might expect for that time of year at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, Ontario the chilled air cuts like tiny daggers right through the riding silks. Tiny shards of unrelenting freezing rain is both annoying and sobering for the riders.
It’s Ron Turcotte’s mount and history will forever link jockey and horse. Nobody will remember Eddie Maple. Unless…
But Turcotte is hit with a suspension that week and Claiborne Farm’s Penny Chenery and her lead trainer Lucien Laurin need a rider for their decorated champion’s last race. Eddie Maple was capable of course and would finish his career with 4,398 wins. But he had to get this one.
Reflecting on it later Maple would say, “If I lose that race, I don’t think even my family would have spoken to me.”
I’ve known Bob Miller for 25 years. He’s a friend, a mentor, and a hero of mine. It’s a small club and I was in it for a long time. You look forward to seeing your counterparts, some more than others. Bob Miller, Jim Fox, Nick Nickson, Daryl Evans and the whole Kings broadcast and support staff are guys we all can’t wait to see again.
Bob’s the consummate pro, a gifted and experienced broadcaster blessed with impeccable delivery and timing and armed with a ready smile and a fully stocked arsenal of wonderful stories and spectacular jokes. We speak often. I’ve been to his home. When the Kings called and asked if I’d help keep the seat warm, I was honored and excited to step in briefly for him and with the others.
But I felt like Maple…
At that time the race was called “The Canadian International Championship Stakes” and distanced 1 5/8 miles. The field was strong, the race was important, but the overflow crowd in attendance came for one reason. It would be “Big Red’s” last competitive trip around the track and they all wanted one last look.
He’d put on so many different colored silks over the years, ridden so many mounts. He was experienced and in shape for the race. But this one was different. The unmistakable blue and white-checkered accouterments were easy to spot and intimidating to see. This time, even Eddie felt unnerved. As one horseman of the time observed, “Maple was a wreck…”
I joined the group in Columbus the night before their game with the Jackets. I had studied hard, watched lots of games, called colleagues. I hadn’t called an NHL game in over 18 months and wondered about my timing. I didn’t want to let Bob down. I wanted Kings fans to get my best.
From the moment I got there and through the road trip I felt welcomed and supported. Jim Fox put his arm around me, literally and during the broadcasts. Nick and Patrick and Daryl and PR and broadcast and team personnel made it so easy, made me feel like part of it. Darryl Sutter and I go way back too and we’ve had a very good working relationship. He and his coaches and the Kings players took time with me.
I’ve heard so often and I know through first hand experience that players win games but organizations win championships. The Los Angeles Kings are a top-flight organization with superb people. They know who they are on the ice, and they are business-like and professional off of it.
When the puck dropped in Columbus, because of all that support around me, I was ready and comfortable.
The bell rings and the gates blow open and Avelino Gomez takes “Kennedy Rose” out quickly and heads for the center of the track. Eleven horses break together but quickly the horse with the blue and white-checked covered head lurches forward to challenge. It’s a long race on the turf but Maple has his horse right where he wants him. With a loose grasp of the reigns he relaxes. He knows he’s on the 2-5 favorite. He gains confidence with each stride. He can do this.
Nobody does anything by themselves. You’re as good as the people you’re with. You succeed because of the people around you. You gain confidence with what you’re doing because they’re ready to pick you up if you misstep. And if you’re riding a superhorse that’s been handled by the best there is, just hang on loosely, don’t fall off, and enjoy the ride.
It’s a two-horse race as they come to the last turn. It isn’t that “Kennedy Rose” is fading but that “Secretariat” is surging. Eddie Maple smiles as his horse powers past him and makes his charge toward the finish line. Steam exits “Secretariat’s” nostrils and he pulls clear and wins going away.
What was Maple worried about?
Related: Checking in with Gary Thorne