By John Vogl
Harry Neale remembers begging his father to let him stay up late and listen to hockey broadcasts. Neale, only about 8 years old, would sneak a radio into his bedroom in Sarnia, Ont., and visualize the images conjured by legendary Maple Leafs broadcaster Foster Hewitt.
When Neale's phone rang with the news he was this year's recipient of the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award -- an honor that features recognition in the Hockey Hall of Fame -- the Sabres' broadcaster welled up.
"I can’t ever remember feeling as different as I did when I got the call," Neale said today. "It was a humbling moment to be in a group as celebrity-filled as the Foster Hewitt Award."
Neale started as a color analyst with CBC's "Hockey Night in Canada" in 1986, and he joined the Sabres in 2007. The longtime Amherst resident did color for the Sabres for five years before becoming a studio analyst this season.
"It was a real break for me to do games here," he said in First Niagara Center. "It’s like working for the home team. How can you possibly beat that?"
Neale will be honored in a ceremony Nov. 11 in Toronto, and his plaque will be on display in the great hall. Neale will join Rick Jeanneret (2012) and Ted Darling (1994) as Sabres announcers to win the Foster Hewitt, awarded annually by the NHL Broadcasters' Association to members of the radio and television industry who make outstanding contributions to their profession and the game of ice hockey during their broadcasting career.
Neale got his broadcasting start after coaching Vancouver and Detroit.
"I just wanted to make sure I did a good enough job to get the next game on my resume," he said. "I don’t know how many people who do my job had experience coaching. A lot them had experience playing, so you get another look from a different angle at the game. I think that helps you dissect or describe or analyze the plays that go on on the ice.
"I didn’t think it was nuclear physics I was involved in, so we had to have a few laughs if I could probably come up with them and make it an enjoyable situation."