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Dream comes true for radio substitute

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings

Red Wings rookie Mitch Callahan wasn't the only one making his NHL debut Tuesday in Columbus. Wings corporate sales manager Mark Kelly called his first NHL game on 97.1 The Ticket. Sitting in for the team's radio voice Ken Kal, who was ill, Kelly got to work with color analyst Paul Woods. (Photo by Bill Roose/Detroit Red Wings)

COLUMBUS, OhioMitch Callahan wasn’t the only Red Wings’ employee making his NHL debut inside Nationwide Arena Tuesday night.

Mark Kelly, a corporate partnership sales manager for the Red Wings, was called up to the majors to step in for veteran play-by-play man Ken Kal, who missed his second straight game with laryngitis. Paul Woods, Kal’s regular radio partner, did play by play for last Sunday’s nationally televised game, which meant that Fox Sports Detroit’s John Keating was available to sit in as a color analyst on the radio.

Kal made the trip to Columbus with the team on Monday but by Tuesday morning it was evident that he wasn’t healthy enough to work the broadcast. “I feel bad because I wanted to do the game,” Kal said, “but I’m happy for Mark. He’s super excited.”

A St. Louis native, the 48-year-old Kelly learned after lunch that he was headed to central Ohio to work in the team’s radio booth with color analyst Paul Woods.

“I walked in (to his office) and told him ‘You’re in the Big Leagues now’,” said Rob Mattina, the Red Wings’ vice president of marketing. “This is why working in sports is great; dreams can come true.”

A co-worker drove Kelly to the airport where he got on a Delta flight to Columbus that got him into the Ohio capital with a couple of hours to spare before the game against the Blue Jackets.

After pouring over game notes and meeting with the broadcast team, Kelly was ready for his debut.

“This is unbelievable,” said Kelly, moments before the opening face-off. “It’s a dream come true because there aren’t too many opportunities as you work your way up the ranks in broadcastings. Opportunities are few and far between so this is unbelievable.”

Employed by the Red Wings since 1999, Kelly is no stranger to the radio booth. He trained to be a radio engineer, but along the way he ended up in front of a microphone for a period, handled play-by-play duties for one season with the USHL’s Waterloo Black Hawks (1994-95) and three campaigns with the ECHL’s Toledo Storm (1995-98).

“I’ve always sort of told Rob Mattina, ‘Hey, if you’re ever in a pitch, this is what I do,’,” Kelly said, “and it happened.

“I just want to get through it and make sure we provide a good broadcast.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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