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Off Main Street

A guy walks into a grocery store and finds Jack Armstrong singing 'Silver Bells'

Jack Armstrong is famous in Western New York as a former Niagara University basketball coach. But in Canada, he's famous across the country as a broadcaster for the NBA Champion Toronto Raptors.

And as a singer, too.

Armstrong, who still lives in Lewiston and commutes to Toronto, was making an appearance at a Sobeys grocery store one afternoon in December. Sobeys is a major sponsor of the Raptors. Armstrong was doing the usual – signing autographs, posing for selfies, talking basketball – when one of the Sobeys workers asked him to read the daily specials over the public-address system.

"If you hand me a microphone, I'm a ham," Armstrong said. "It's not going to be me just announcing the specials for the day. I'm going to entertain."

This isn't a surprise. Armstrong has been a Raptors broadcaster for two decades, and early on – when the team wasn't good – he would often sing on air to make the games more entertaining.

At Sobeys that afternoon, he started singing Christmas carols: "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," "White Christmas." One fan caught the final several seconds of "Silver Bells" on a phone and posted the video to Twitter.

The clip quickly went viral. Armstrong, who doesn't have a Twitter account, had no idea. When he showed up to work at that night's game, one of his colleagues asked him, "What were you doing at Sobeys?"

"How do you know about it?" Armstrong asked.

"It's ALL over!" came the answer.

Armstrong later told The News that he was a grocery store worker as a teenager in Brooklyn. So in a sense, he was combining his first career with his current one — and adding a touch of whimsy.

"You could choose to have fun with it, or you could choose to be aloof," Armstrong said. "I chose to have fun with it."

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