DETROIT – Ask him about his 32-year hockey broadcasting career and Mickey Redmond
will likely tell you that it all started by chance.
He'll tell you the story about a failed comeback attempt as a player in 1979 in Adirondack, N.Y., and how it was cut short by persistent back problems. He'll mention that a friend called him after he'd quit playing for good, offering him the chance to do color-analyst work for 15 televised Detroit Red Wings
games that year.
"The rest is pretty much history," he'll say, trying to downplay his career upstairs in the booth.
It's no surprise, then, that Redmond has tried to downplay somewhat the significance of what will happen for him Monday in Toronto. The 63-year old Redmond will be presented with the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award as part of the annual Hockey Hall of Fame Induction Weekend.
Named for the late "Voice of Hockey" in Canada, the award is presented for contributions to the sport of hockey through broadcasting – which for Redmond spans 32 years, including 27 and counting doing Red Wings games. He also had a five-year stint on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada and has done national telecasts on ABC, ESPN and the USA Network.
The meaning behind the award is what's most special to Redmond.
He comes from a "hockey family" that includes his own nine-year NHL career with the Red Wings and Montreal Canadiens
, his brother Dick playing 13 seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks
and Boston Bruins
and his father, Eddie, playing semi-pro and becoming the president of the Peterboro Petes of the Ontario Hockey League.
"At first it really didn't faze me or hit me," Redmond told NHL.com this week. "I think when I saw the wording of the press release and that the award is given for contribution to hockey and broadcasting … that really meant a lot to me. My Mom (May) and Dad are gone now, but they spent their whole lives with the game of hockey. For me to see the wording of this award and how it's for giving back to this game, that really makes me feel good about my Mom and Dad … and what they gave to the game. They sacrificed a lot for us kids to succeed at this great game."
For starters, they gave the game two NHL players – who had no qualms about going after each other as members of rival teams in Chicago and Detroit during the early-to-mid 1970s. The Redmonds also gave the game one of its most colorful and beloved TV analysts, whose "Mickeyisms" have become a thing of legend among Red Wings fans.
Some favorites include gems like "bingo bango," and "that's a B.C. two-hander right there," and, "Are we playing ice hockey or Tiddlywinks?"
Like most long-tenured broadcasters, Redmond's repertoire has expanded through the years – adding a few things here and there along the way while still staying the same old "Mickey," a man much beloved in the Motor City.
"They know he's part of Red Wings history, from being a player to being a commentator up in the stands," said Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom
, who's witnessed firsthand the Mickey Redmond
experience for 20 years. "He's meant a lot to this organization. He's easy to talk to, and that's how he's viewed – an easy-going guy who knows the game real well. He knows the ins and outs of the game and that makes it even more fun listening to him."
Redmond also knows the ins and outs of the Red Wings as an organization. He's been there every step of the way – from the time Detroit drafted legendary captain Steve Yzerman
during the dark times through four Stanley Cup titles and to the present as the Wings aim for a fifth crown.
In fact, when he looks back on his long association with Detroit, it seems like a little more than luck that got him started as a broadcaster here. It seems more like fate, actually.
"At first, I was upset about being traded from Montreal because Detroit was buried in last place," said Redmond, who blossomed as a player with the Red Wings and had back-to-back seasons scoring 50-plus goals. "As it's turned out, it's been the greatest thing that's ever happened. Here we are 40 years later and life is good."
Indeed it is.
At Joe Louis Arena, he still gets to experience that camaraderie with the Red Wings that most players say they miss the most after retiring. Redmond is as popular among players as he is the fans and it's not just because of his efforts in the broadcast booth.
He still tries to play hockey once a week and plays in some charity events with other Red Wings alumni – even though his shot "couldn't break a pane of glass these days," according to Redmond's own scouting report. Away from the rink, he even gives the old "B.C. two-hander" a whirl while chopping wood to stay in shape.
Redmond has also battled lung cancer twice and continues to live with Celiac disease, which requires that he eat a strict specialized diet. None of those health challenges, however, has ever doused his passion for hockey. The way Redmond sees it, he's a hockey lifer -- and that's never going to change.
His travel schedule has been scaled back through the years, but Redmond plans to keep doing Red Wings games on television as long as he can. That's music to the ears of both fans and Red Wings players alike.
"He's meant a lot to hockey, first as a player but also as a commentator," Lidstrom said. "He's a very big part of (this organization), because he's been here for so long and people know his voice and know his face. He's just a good guy to be around."
Always has been, too, if you ask around.
Since making that "lucky" career transition from the ice to the press box years ago, Redmond has brought a unique spin – not to mention a lot of smiles – to each broadcast that he does.
"You always wish you could have played longer when you were gone as early as I was," Redmond told NHL.com. "Do I look back at my playing career today? No . I don't look back in the rear-view mirror, unless it's to grab some great memories of the past, whatever they may be."