FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 2, 2022
CADEAU ATTAINS DREAM AS ‘VOICE OF THE K-WINGS’
New Kalamazoo PR and Broadcasting Director, Chris Cadeau, journeyed a winding path but the Michigan born Marine Corps veteran has arrived.
By Pam Shebest @KalamzooWings / KWings.com
KALAMAZOO, MI -Chris Cadeau’s hockey roots date back to his grandfather and the Detroit Red Wings.
“My grandfather was a season ticket holder at Olympia (former home of the Red Wings),” the newest Voice of the Kalamazoo Wings said. “He watched every game with an autographed Production Line (Gordie Howe, Sid Abel, Ted Lindsay) photo above his recliner.
“The family story is that when Ted Lindsay was traded to the (Chicago) Blackhawks, my grandfather walked into Jack Adams’ office, because back then it was right on the street and you could do that, and gave him a piece of his mind with Gordie Howe sitting right there.”
The love of hockey was handed down the line and Cadeau has been passionate about hockey since he was 7 years old, “watching the Red Wings make their run to the Stanley Cup finals and lose to the (New Jersey) Devils.
“That’s my first hockey memory, especially the all-out fights in the prior series with Chicago.”
While hockey is in his blood, Cadeau’s journey to Kalamazoo has a ton of twists and turns.
After graduating from Canton’s Salem High School with an unimpressive 1.9 GPA, Cadeau knew college wasn’t in the cards — at least not yet.
“I graduated at 17 1/2, worked two jobs and lived with some friends,” he said. “That wasn’t going well, so I went into the Marines.”
His father served in the Navy, but Cadeau chose the Marines — he didn’t want the boat life.
Ironically, he actually did end up on a boat: an aircraft carrier.
Cadeau loved working as a FA/18 fighter jet mechanic, even carrying aircraft parts across flight lines and up narrow boat stairwells.
Coupled with the rigorous Marine Corps physical fitness lifestyle that led him into bodybuilding - the result was an honorable discharge after 7-plus years of service - but it also did a number on his back.
Which led to another problem that eventually turned out to be life saving. Cadeau’s addiction to painkillers spun out of control, and life seemed bleak until 2012 when he entered substance abuse recovery.
“We all have ideas of what the opioid epidemic is, and many of us have the overwhelming feeling that it’s not going to happen to me,” he said. “It did and I had to make a choice.
“It’s been nine years since that choice. For me, I was blessed. I had an outstanding support network of people who loved me (especially mom). And I listened to mentors who told me, ‘If you don’t do something you love, you're probably going back out (of recovery).’”
College as a Veteran
Because of his military status, Cadeau knew he could attend college for free.
“I reached out to the Pat Tillman Veterans Center at Arizona State University,” he said. Joanna Sweatt, former PTVC Veteran Advocate, set up a meeting.
In 2015, the veteran suicide rate was soaring and Sweatt wasn’t taking any chances.
“When I got done telling her my story and goals, she looked right in my eyes with a smile and said ‘I promise. Everything’s going to be OK.’ Then she told me about the (Walter) Cronkite School of Journalism (and Mass Communications) at ASU.”
While there, Cadeau created and hosted “ASU Veteran Diaries,” a radio show that featured interviews with the veteran community and their stories.
Prior to that, Cadeau, another student and two PTVC staff members founded the ‘PTVC Veteran Outreach Team’ (now ‘Student Success Team’), which currently is an integral part of the lives of more than 7,200 student veterans at Arizona State with a staff of 34 student veterans.
That led to another twist in his life.
“I was introduced to the Tillman family, Kevin (Pat’s brother) and his wife Kandi, and that relationship led to an offer to sit on state senator Kyrsten Sinema’s veteran advisory board.”
In addition, the Cronkite experience gave him a foothold in covering all four professional sports, gaining real-world experience.
For a kid who barely made it out of high school, Cadeau was now looking at grad school after graduating with honors from ASU in 2018. He was named Cronkite’s ‘Outstanding Undergraduate of the Year’ and was a keynote speaker at veteran convocation as well.
He chose Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications.
“The whole time, the goal for me was to be the voice of a team or cover a team,” Cadeau said. “I was touching everything from play by play, to writing, to broadcasting, looking for the best fit for my family.”
By then, he was married to Christine, a girl he met when he was 15 years old and started dating in 2009.
They married in 2014, had a daughter, Guinevere, who is now 5 years old, and then a son Jack, 15 months. Rez the dog and Layla the cat round out the family.
It’s important to note that Christine left a budding career as a property manager in Arizona to come to Kalamazoo. Cadeau said, “ I’ll spend the rest of my life showing my appreciation for that sacrifice.”
After graduating from Medill in 2019, Cadeau worked in several different areas of professional sports, still searching for the best fit for him and his family.
Blessing in Disguise
Then came another hurdle. He had shoulder surgery in January 2021 and was well on his way to recovery when his family’s car was rear-ended in Canton, MI on the way to the airport after attending his cousin’s funeral last April.
“I’m out of the sling for two weeks, and (the accident) detached my bicep tendon. So, surgery again in May,” he said.
Cadeau was still searching for that perfect fit, his “pipe dream.”
“I am a member of a sportscasters talent network that cultivates aspiring broadcasters and sends out job postings,” he said. “They congratulated John Peterson for getting the job with the Texas Stars. It said Kalamazoo, Michigan.
“I found John and we talked for 45 minutes about his experience in Kalamazoo and how it’s home. He later texted me saying the job was open.”
Cadeau applied, was interviewed and was offered the job as he returned home from an errand.
“It was one of those culminating life moments,” he said. “I ended the call, pulled over the car and prayed.”
Toni Will, K-Wings general manager/governor, said Cadeau’s background and work experience stood out immediately.
“Being a veteran and then earning his degree(s) in his dream field of broadcasting and journalism was impressive,” she said. “During the interview process (which was several interviews) his confidence, knowledge and growth mindset became very clear.”
And starting any job in sports, let alone midseason, isn’t easy.
“The previous three broadcasters (Joe Roberts, Isaac Berky, Peterson) all began in the off-season. They had time to ramp up, learn the role, learn how the front office operates, learn the culture, build relationships and THEN begin the public facing aspect of the job,” Will said.
“There was no ramp up period, no time to get his feet on the ground, or time to move his family across the country. We were very strategic on how we handled the transition: First, having Chris only call home games and then go on the road with the team starting in February. The role was divided into two parts … the ‘must do’ and the ‘nice to do’ but can wait.”
Public relations intern Calvin Chesler also helped with the transition.
“Chris has done a tremendous job in his first 60 days. Calvin picked up the ball during the 10 weeks after (Peterson) took the Texas Stars (AHL) job and when Chris started.
“Calvin also helped onboard Chris, which was critical mid-season.”
Something Cadeau agrees with.
“It just goes to show how strong this organization is and Calvin’s potential,” Cadeau said. “An intern executing midseason isn’t something most organizations can successfully navigate.”
Since leaving Michigan in 2006, there was one person in the state who missed Cadeau most.
“When I called my dad and told him I got the job, he cried.
“Coming from a divorced family, and living with him, we’re super close. So, the fact I was gone for 15 years really bothered him with no timetable for returning.
“Now, we’re an hour and a half away from both sides of grandparents,” Cadeau said. “We get an opportunity in the summer to do the kind of recreation we love: camping, fishing and playing cards together.
“It’s tough living across the country. There’s always JUST three people who know how to play Euchre.”
One thing Cadeau was not expecting when he started as the Voice of the K-Wings was “the overall support from the fan base and having them walk up to me and say, ‘Hey, I love your broadcasts,’ or telling you a specific part,” he said.
But for Cadeau that was a part of the dream, too. And now, it’s all about the team.
“Every part of this role is important to me,” he said. “The team, the front office and the fanbase. Coach Bootland takes a ‘don’t talk about it, be about it approach.’ That aligns with my core values, and the mentality that was first instilled in me right here. Home.”
The Kalamazoo Wings are a professional hockey team located in southwest Michigan that has been a staple in the Kalamazoo, MI professional sports landscape since 1974. The K-Wings compete in the ECHL and are the AA affiliate of the National Hockey League’s Columbus Blue Jackets and American Hockey League’s Cleveland Monsters. Kalamazoo plays their 36 regular season home games at Wings Event Center from October through April.