Harry Neale will be honored by the Hockey Hall of Fame later this year. ©2013, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres analyst Neale calls Hall of Fame honor ‘glorious moment’

BUFFALO – Harry Neale said he couldn’t believe the news, so when Chuck Kaiton informed the longtime NHL color analyst the Hockey Hall of Fame would be honoring him with the 2013 Foster Hewitt Memorial Award, Neale told the Carolina Hurricanes’ play-by-play announcer to ring him again.

“It had never even crossed my mind that it was a possibility, and so I said, ‘Call me back in five minutes and reconfirm this, would you?’ Neale said this afternoon inside the First Niagara Center, “because I thought he might be pulling my leg.”

It wasn’t a joke, though. Neale, the quick-witted broadcaster for CBC’s “Hockey Night in Canada” and the Toronto Maple Leafs before joining the Sabres in 2007, will be honored Nov. 11 in Toronto.

“It was a glorious moment my family has really enjoyed,” Neale said.

Neale will be joining the Sabres’ Rick Jeanneret, who was honored last year, and CBC’s Bob Cole, the two legendary play-by-play men he has spent the most time calling games beside. Both have sent their congratulations.

“It makes it even a more glorious occurrence to share it with the people you admire,” Neale said. “I can’t ever remember feeling as different as I did when I got the call, thinking, ‘Are you kidding? Is this one of my friends that likes to play jokes?’ So it was a humbling moment to be in a group as celebrity-filled as the Foster Hewitt Award.”

For Neale, an NHL coach and general manager before moving to the broadcast booth in 1985-86, receiving an award with Hewitt’s name is surreal. As a boy in Sarnia, Ont., Neale did whatever he could to listen to Hewitt, a Canadian icon.

“I can remember begging my father, ‘Can I stay up and at least listen to the first period of the 8:30 game?’” Neale said as his voice cracked and his eyes filled with tears. “And then sometimes I’d sneak the radio upstairs and have that radio to listen to Foster Hewitt. So to be a winner of the Foster Hewitt Award is even more special.”

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