The Detroit Red Wings are one of the most successful and unparalleled teams in the NHL, with 11 Stanley Cup victories and a perpetual playoff presence. Author Ken Daniels, as the longtime play-by-play voice for the Wings, has gotten to witness more than his fair share of that action up close and personal. Through singular anecdotes only Daniels can tell as well as conversations with current and past players, this book provides fans with a one-of-a-kind, insider's look into the great moments, the lowlights, and everything in between. Citizens of Hockeytown will not want to be without this book.
About the Author
Ken Daniels has been the television voice of the Red Wings since 1997. Daniels also called the 1988 Seoul and 1996 Atlanta Olympics and has lent his voice to motorsports events and Toronto Blue Jays baseball. Daniels won a Michigan Emmy in 2006 when he called a Red Wings-Ottawa Senators game from between the benches at Joe Louis Arena and in 2011, he won the Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association’s Ty Tyson Award for broadcast excellence. Bob Duff is a longtime sports columnist, who has written extensively for the Windsor Star, MSNBC.com, and Hockey Weekly. His work has also appeared in the Hockey News, Beckett Hockey, Faceoff, and Prospects magazine. Mickey Redmond was a two-time All Star and a two-time Stanley Cup champion in a career spent with the Montreal Canadiens and Detroit Red Wings. He is currently a color analyst for Red Wings games for Fox Sports Detroit.
Read an Excerpt
Go to Bed
I had a dream from a young age ...
Voices in My Head
Beginning in 1966, all Hockey Night in Canada televised games were broadcast in color. That didn't matter to me. We didn't get a color television until the early seventies. My world was black and white — in more ways than one. I was either watching hockey or thinking about hockey. That was it. I was a pretty simple kid. Math class in fifth grade was all about calculating the goals against average of an NHL goaltender, not about how long it would take one train on a parallel track to catch another train, leaving later but going faster.
But there was a bigger problem to solve in little Kenny's life. When I first started watching games in the mid-'60s, HNIC would join the game from Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto already in progress. The game would show up in our family living room around 8:30 pm, late in the first period. Here's the issue. I was seven. By the time the third period rolled around, tiring perhaps of my early play-by-play years, my parents or much older siblings, either Linda, John, or Gary, would say it was time for bed. I must not have let the game breathe or mistakenly said Keon when it was Kelly!
Once upstairs, Foster Hewitt took over. Foster was the legendary voice of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Foster was the gold standard when it came to hockey play- by-play. His goal call "He shoots, he scores" was copied by almost everyone who followed him into the booth. He started calling games in the 1920s, and when he was hired full-time by the Leafs in the early 1930s to call their games coast to coast on radio, it helped turn the team and Foster into national icons.
As strange as this may sound, Foster and I shared a passionate love affair — with the game, that is. Foster would later say, "It's hard to explain why hockey meant so much to me, but it had always been the epitome of everything." I knew that feeling. All those nights I was sent to bed with a radio tucked under my pillow, play-by-play must have come to me through osmosis. I literally dreamed the game.
So 23 years later, that dream came true. I called my first-ever hockey game from that same arena Foster did, Maple Leaf Gardens, on the same station, 1430 AM, that Foster used to own. Also 56' above the ice, but directly across from his old gondola, which Leafs owner Harold Ballard foolishly had destroyed.
Foster's gondola, to this day, was the perfect place from which to call a game. It was five floors up, designed specifically because Foster and an architect went to a downtown Toronto building on Bay Street, and looked down. From there, he felt he could accurately describe minute details of people walking beneath them. The gondola got its name from an advertising executive who suggested the broadcast spot resembled a gondola of an airship. First time Foster ventured out onto his perch, he did so on his hands and knees on a metal plank that led from the fan room to the top of the gray seats at Maple Leaf Gardens. Then he'd walk up a stairway, to a catwalk that was 80 feet high. Once he'd hit the middle of that, there was a 90-degree ladder to one end of the gondola. He got used to it. Many others, I hear, wouldn't try. But Foster always sounded comfortable, and so did all hockey fans listening to him.
When the Leafs weren't playing, I could scroll down the dial and find Dan Kelly out of KMOX in St. Louis, calling Blues games. I loved Dan Kelly's booming voice, his cadence, and immaculate inflection, and Foster's calming, reassuring, almost grandfatherly sound. I guess from listening to Dan Kelly, that's in part why I became a bit of a Blues fan. Once in a while I would get 760 WJR-AM from Detroit and pull in Bruce Martyn calling the Red Wings games. It didn't matter who was on the call. I fell in love with the sounds of the game.
By the age of 10, I had been playing hockey for a year or so and picked up the skating part fairly quickly. I wasn't on skates at the age of three like the kids today. I was always fascinated with the speed and the sound of the game. It just stuck with me. And, as my mother Sylvia pointed out to me years later, I was destined to do this job because I was born on March 18. And on March 18, 1892, Lord Stanley of Preston donated the Stanley Cup. Somewhere there's kismet there, right?
Toronto Goal Scored By ...
Maple Leaf Gardens was a place I could only dream of seeing as a kid. That is until my brother John hooked up with a girl whose dad had season tickets. We sat in the north end blues. It was the Leafs against the Buffalo Sabres. I don't recall much about the game, but I do vividly remember Gerry Meehan playing for the Sabres. He was a former Leafs draft pick who would go on to become GM of the Sabres, succeeding Scotty Bowman.
A few years later, a friend of mine, Benjy Walderman, had corner blue mezzanine season tickets right by Paul Morris' booth, and that fascinated me, too. Everyone in Toronto was familiar with Paul's steady, monotone, nasal voice over the public address system at Maple Leaf Gardens. He had a one-of-a-kind sound. And now, here I am looking at Paul Morris talking into the microphone and hearing his voice.
Twelve years later at CBC, I interviewed Paul for a TV sports item, imitating his voice. We would share the goal call. I'd say, "Toronto goal scored by No. 17 Wendel Clark." And he'd say, "Assisted by No. 10 Vincent Damphousse." Then I'd say, "The time 11:11." And then we'd repeat it. To this day, it's the best impression I do. That and the voice of Bill Hewitt, Foster's son.
Paul was a really good sport about it. I got the feeling that he'd heard plenty of imitations of himself over the years. I asked him how come he never sounds excited when he calls a goal. He said, "I am excited. It just doesn't come across that way." Paul was the Gardens' electrician. He only got the job as PA announcer because the guy before him had screwed up announcing the Canadian prime minister's name at the time, as Lester Boo Person, instead of Lester B. Pearson. Leafs co-owner Stafford Smythe, the son of Conn Smythe, who founded the Leafs back in 1927, told Harold Ballard to "Fire that guy." Paul was standing nearby and was told he was the new P.A. announcer. Ballard's reasoning was sound, you could say. "If your microphone breaks Paul, you know how to fix it." Harold could always find a way to get things done cheaply.
During intermissions Benjy and I would make the long trek down from the north end blues to go stand outside the Leafs dressing room. Back then we could stand right outside the door, with that big Leafs logo on it. I'd watch as Leafs goalie Bruce Gamble would come out with that huge scar underneath his right cheek. Bruce didn't wear a mask back then to cover it up. Not even his pork-chop sideburns could hide it. I'd see Toronto captain Dave Keon up close. Just to see them for a few seconds as they took the ice to start the period was well worth the walk and the jostling through the intermission crowd while navigating the tight MLG corridors. I knew the Gardens backwards and forwards long before I ever got there as a reporter.
Limited Time Offer
Growing up middle class in the Toronto suburb of Forest Hill, I knew hockey was going to be my life. I devoured everything I could about the game. I listened to and watched all the sportscasts and would religiously read cover to cover the sports sections in the newspapers, back when we were reading those. The Toronto Star would be delivered to our home around four each afternoon, and if the Leafs had played the night before, I could finally get the scoring summary. There was no Internet and immediate access back then, children. And there it was. The ad! The ad that would change my life. The National Institute of Broadcasting. This was better than sneaking a Playboy magazine upstairs. It offered the complete course of how to become a broadcaster. Are you kidding me? Thirty-six recorded lessons on 12" long-playing vinyl records. Kids, ask your parents what those are. And for younger parents, ask your parents.
The ad implied you listened to the lesson on your record player, then you did it yourself on your tape recorder. Your NIB instructor corrected your work, and then you attended in-station practice lessons. There were apparently 500 NIB graduates on the air all over North America. I was only 13, but I wanted to be the 501st. Just one problem — cost. I didn't care. I would have done it at any cost. My dad, Marvin, not so much.
I can't recall how much it was exactly back in the early '70s, but it may have been upwards of $1,000 dollars. My favorite pop band, Hall and Oates, later wrote a song, "I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)." That was my dad's motto long before. So I enlisted my trusty brother-in-law Shelly's help. He married my sister, Linda, when I was only 11. Linda was 13 years older than me. The fact that my brother-in-law Shelly is still alive is a miracle in itself. He is the "luckiest unlucky" person in the world. In 2006, he had his lymph nodes removed due to melanoma. Four years later, due to melanoma, he went through a liver resection. And if that wasn't enough for the "ill-lottery" survival victory, in 2014, not even a flesh-eating disease could stop the most patient patient any doctor had ever met. Shelly needed a facial reconstruction, and has had six plastic surgeries since. He even still has sight in the left eye, where the disease first attached itself. By comparison, hopefully you have little to complain about.
So, back to the rest of the story.
Shelly took me downtown, and we sat in the class together. I read a news article into the microphone, and the instructor thought I was great. I bet he did. He heard nothing but saw the money. Actually, I thought I did okay, too. So did Shelly. Dad didn't need to hear me. He only heard the cost and said no. I was really angry. But deep down I understood, and it wouldn't deter my passion. My dad would smile and say to me, "At 13 it's amazing how little you think I know, but when you're 22 you'll be amazed how much I've learned in the last nine years!" As a 13-year-old kid I didn't get it, but at 22 I realized how right he was. Again.
Bernie, Bernie, Bernie
One of my heroes growing up was Leafs goalie Bernie Parent, who, curiously enough, they got in a trade for Bruce Gamble, the goalie I liked to watch lumber to the ice from the Leafs dressing room. Outside the Gardens after games on Wood Street I'd wait for that garage door to open, and the players would come out. There was Bernie. Program in hand, I'd get his autograph. He also had a cigar in his hand. I wanted that, too. Why, I don't know. To this day, I only have the odd cigar on the golf course, but for some reason I had in mind that Bernie's cigar would make a wonderful keepsake. Smartly, Bernie declined the invitation to hand an 11-year-old his stogie, despite me following him to his car, asking persistently.
I started keeping scrapbooks on Bernie. And then I found out years later talking to Detroit general manager Kenny Holland that he also kept scrapbooks of Bernie. He was Ken's idol, too. Unlike Mr. Holland though, who went on to stop pucks in the NHL like Bernie, I was only a street hockey goalie. I only played goal on ice once, and it hurt like hell because back in those days the padding was minimal compared with today's standard. But I was a pretty decent street hockey goalie. I'd try to do the Bernie Parent kick save while flaring out the pad, before we were doing the butterfly style. I'd be tapping the posts like Bernie did and slapping the stick into the glove like Bernie did.
We played ball hockey almost every day after school. We kept the goalie nets and the sticks at my house. I made a stick rack in wood shop class in eighth grade and still have it. But today that rack is home to sticks from Hockey Hall of Famers like Bobby Orr and Bobby Hull, rather than Rich Caplan, Randy Lebow, and Jeff Stanton.
We'd go play at the church yard across the street from my house. I had the Bernie Parent white mask, and I would put two Philadelphia Flyers stickers up there just like Bernie had. I remember when he went to the Philadelphia Blazers in the WHA, I took the mask and painted the Philadelphia Blazers logo on there. That was in art class. See, I always found a way to tie hockey in with my schooling. That Blazers stop didn't go very well for Bernie, and he was back in the NHL a year later, winning back-to-back Stanley Cups and back-to-back Conn Smythe Trophy awards with the Flyers in 1973 — 74 and 1974 — 75.
Years later, because of my relationship with Mike Keenan, I actually got to spend some time with Bernie. When Keenan was coaching the Philadelphia Flyers I went to the Philly Fling in 1986, which is a big party for their players and staff. Mike performed with Nick and The Nice Guys, his band from St. Lawrence University. Mike was the singer. He was okay, a solid third-line singer.
I was staying at Mike's house, and really as much as I appreciated being around Mike and the rest of the team, I only wanted to meet Bernie Parent. Mike brought him down to his office the next day to see me. Getting a picture with Bernie then was awesome. Twenty-five years later, when we were both much older, I got another with him while working with the Wings at a game in Philadelphia. This time, I had him sign it.
I played high school hockey for Mike Keenan at Forest Hill Collegiate in Toronto, years before Mike coached the New York Rangers to the 1994 Stanley Cup, took the Philadelphia Flyers to the Cup final in 1985 and 1987 and the Chicago Blackhawks there in 1992, and nearly became coach of the Wings in the mid-1990s.
I was hardly a hockey superstar. I was probably a middle-range player. I killed a lot of penalties and played point on the power play for Keenan. I learned the fine details of the game from him, long before he was telling Dave Poulin to "take his line" as coach of the Flyers. That was Mike's signature line change call. Whomever was center was told to "Daniels ... take your line." He still begins a telephone conversation with that very phrase.
Forest Hill Collegiate was a predominantly Jewish high school. Mike's first wife, Rita, was Jewish. I remember Mike walked into our dressing room before the first game of the twelfth-grade 1976 season and said, "We've got some high skill on this team. We're smart. If we play hard, we can win a lot. The chances of any of you guys making the National Hockey League? Zero. The chances of one of you owning a National Hockey League team? Eighty per cent." We just cracked up.
Mike was a phys-ed and history teacher at Forest Hill, along with his head coaching duties. He was also coaching Oshawa Jr. B Legionaires at the time and was playing-coach of the Whitby Warriors OHA Senior A team. He took me aside one day and said, "You want to see what it's like? Come on out." He brought me from the high school team to play for his Oshawa Junior B team in a preseason game, and I quickly realized how much different it was.
I went to hit some guy and just missed him in the corner and when I came back to the bench, Keenan said, "You're going to get yourself killed. I wouldn't be trying to hit somebody like that." I played that one game, but I came to understand that they were so much better and tougher than I was.
That was Mike's message in a roundabout way. Stick to broadcasting. Mike and I would often sit in his phys-ed office and discuss what jobs might be coming up in the NHL. I wanted to broadcast one day; he was closer to coaching. Remember he was only in his midtwenties then, but like me, he knew visualization is the key. That, and he and I shared the same thought that Sir Laurence Olivier had when a reporter asked him what it takes to be a great actor. The four-time Academy Award winner and five-time Emmy winner said, "What it takes to be a great actor is the humility to prepare and the confidence to pull it off."
Mike's passion was second to none ... well, except maybe for mine. Mike's hockey practice drills were so far ahead of what most kids were learning at that stage. We had one called the Philly drill that he'd taken from Flyers coach Fred Shero. This is where I first really learned about the game. We even had a high school playbook we studied. Mike was tough. We'd often run in the morning before practice, and if you didn't beat your previous time, you were likely a healthy scratch for the next game. One Monday morning, Danny Gellman, a defenseman, had been running the night before! He'd been out drinking Sunday night, and the next morning came all too quickly. We only had an on-ice practice that day and Mike decided to sit it out, watching from the stands. Danny curled up in the fetal position on the near boards where he was sure that Mike couldn't see him. We went through practice skating around him, laughing. As we're leaving the ice, Danny slips in with the group and Mike comes over and says, "Good practice, good practice. Gellman — see you in a while. Fifty laps." Danny thought he was pulling one over on him, but Mike didn't miss it. He knew something was up, and Danny was about to throw up. Over and over. After about 20 laps Mike felt it was enough. Oh God, it was funny.
Excerpted from "If These Walls Could Talk: Detroit Red Wings"
Copyright © 2017 Ken Daniels and Bob Duff.
Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Foreword by Mickey Redmond,
1. Go to Bed,
2. Getting the Call,
3. Winging It,
4. The Voices I've Heard, The Places I've Been,
5. Stop It Right There Gang,
6. Scotty Bowman, Genius?,
7. The Greatest Team Ever Assembled?,
8. Three Cup Rings in Two Decades of Being Spoiled,
9. Coast to Coast,