Detroit Red Wings play-by-play announcer Ken Daniels has worked in hockey since he was 11 years old. Now in his 21st season with the team, Daniels and his play-by-play partner Mickey Redmond are the longest currently serving television duo calling NHL games.
"I love calling hockey games," Daniels said, who moved to Birmingham nearly three years ago. "I would do it every day if I could."
As a youngster growing up in Toronto, Daniels would fall asleep listening to hockey games, dreaming of following in the footsteps of announcers like Bud Collins and Dan Kelly. He was officiating local games before he was a teen, and later put himself through college working games with the Greater Toronto Hockey League. By 1980, Daniels was covering news on the radio before starting his play-by-play career with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1988. Two years later he began hosting Hockey Night in Canada for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Along the way, Daniels has covered auto racing events, baseball and Olympic games, including tennis, judo, cycling and others.
In September of 1997, Daniels joined the Red Wings as the lead announcer on Fox Sports Detroit, winning several awards including EMMYs and being named the Michigan Sportscaster of the Year, as well as earning the respect of fans and the athletes he covers.
"People say how lucky I am, and I am. The job I have, I wanted since the age of 10, so I'm very fortunate," Daniels said, who often speaks to children at metro Detroit schools. "Luck is when preparation meets opportunity. Everything you do in life prepares you. You can be in the right place at the right time, but you have to do the work. You need some confidence to be great at it."
In October of 2017, Daniels released his first book, "If these Walls Could Talk: Stories from the Detroit Red Wings Ice, Locker Room, and Press Box." In it, he dedicates several pages to his son, Jamie, who died on December 7, 2016, when he was just 23 years old.
At the time, Jamie was living in Florida, getting help for an opioid addiction that started when his wisdom teeth were pulled. Jamie died in his sleep after taking heroin and fentanyl. A pill Daniels said he likely got from a dirty rehab home he was conned into staying by a patient broker.
"It's a sick world out there," he said. "Patient brokers get paid to find kids to live in a (rehab) house. They are setting them up for failure."
The idea is to keep them hooked on the drugs they are trying to escape in order to keep a steady flow of money coming in for treatment. Daniels said he's using the book and his position to help educate others about the trappings, and hopefully save lives.
"The book has given me the opportunity and a platform to speak about Jamie, which was never intended," he said. "Now, when people ask if I want to do a book signing, and if I want to speak about Jamie, I say, 'yes." That's the first thing we want to do – to save lives.
"This is why we do what we do, to make people aware. We were never warned. After he passed, we were still getting $60,000 insurance bills, and there were forged signatures. Because of patient brokering, kids are dying every day."