Red Wings announcer Ken Daniels on son's overdose: 'He tried so damn hard to get clean'
(WJBK) - While calling the action on the ice can be challenging, it's nothing compared to what Red Wings announcer Ken Daniels faced outside the broadcast booth. He lives his life on camera as the Wings' play-by-play man, but for the past 12 months Daniels has been living a private hell.
In 2016, his 23-year-old son Jamie became one of the many victims of the nation's opioid epidemic.
Ken's life was forever changed on December 7, 2016 when the Birmingham Police knocked on his door to tell him that Jamie had been found dead in his home in south Florida. For Ken, the news was beyond painful since Jamie had been clean for seven months and had been living in a sober home in Boynton Beach. Jamie was also working in the field of law, which he studied at Michigan State.
It was months later that the Daniels family learned cause of death was acute heroin with fentynl, the worst nightmare for any parent of an addict.
"How do you go on when someone says, 'How you doing today?' Well, how do you think I'm doing? But, there's a time when people forget and you go on. So, when anyone says, 'How you doing?' to me now? The thought in the back of my head is, I'll never be great. I just won't be. And, right away, Jamie comes to mind," Daniels says.
As Daniels began a tour for his hockey book "If These Walls Could Talk," he continued sharing a more private side of his life -- one that was once pained with shame and the stigma of drug abuse.
"'He's the one who does games on TV.' Now it's become, 'There's that guy whose son passed away,'" Daniels says. "That's how I feel I've become known."
Daniels feels it's time to open up about what happened to his family, in hopes that Jamie's story will help other families going through the same ordeal.
"Kids today gotta know, you've gotta get away from this stuff," Daniels says.
Tragically, Jamie did get away. He was sober for seven months before his death.
Jamie had made it to the "other side" of an addiction his parents believe began when he was a senior. They believe he became addicted to the painkillers he got after getting his wisdom teeth pulled.
"To [Jamie's] credit, which is another reason why we're speaking out about this now, he tried. He tried so damn hard to get clean and he did it. Then, circumstances took over, probably beyond his control. He was too easy to go back and kids in his state, and all kids who are addicts -- and let's not be ashamed about it anymore; there are too many -- they need direction all the time."
According to the CDC, an average of 142 lives are lost every day to overdose deaths to heroin and legal synthetics in the United States.
Daniels believes, after his family's experience and discussions with the FBI in Florida, that outside of this growing epidemic there are also those who prey on addicts through insurance fraud.
Getting this message out, and helping others understand how many potential pitfalls one can face on the road to recovery, is what Daniels says keeps him going.
"How do you go on? Why? Because of my daughter; because of my wife; because of my two stepkids. That's why you go on. That's my how and why. Family gets you through it, and now maybe part of my 'why' is speaking out and helping out in this way to save somebody else."
Daniels will be speaking on Wednesday, November 29 at Novi High School's Fuerst Auditorium. The event begins at 6 p.m. Register to attend here.
If you or a loved one has an addiction, you can seek help with the Hope Not Handcuffs program in southeastern Michigan. You can learn more about it here.