The sports airwaves in Detroit are dominated by 97.1 The Ticket, the leading sports station in the area. With opinionated and engaging show hosts as well as being the home of Red Wings hockey and Tigers baseball, there are few that don’t have WXYT programmed into their saved radio presets.

Nearly everyone who currently or has listened to the station will immediately recognize this trademark phrase of one on-air host:

“Swizzlesticks!”

Of course, that jovial burst comes from the one and only Dan Leach. Instantly recognizable for his positivity and impassioned love for Detroit sports, Leach can often be seen at Michigan football games and boasts nearly 13K Twitter followers. A graduate of Eastern Michigan University, Leach hosted nationally syndicated shows on Sports Byline USA and Sirius Satellite Radio before returning home to Michigan to join CBS Radio. 

You can also hear him calling University of Detroit men’s basketball games. He was happy to join us for an interview to talk about how he soon became a household name on the Detroit sports radio airwaves.

MW: Thanks for doing this for DSN Dan! 

DL: Happy to do it!

MW: Let’s start with the basics – how did you arrive at WXYT?

DL: I’ve been in the business forever, started in high school. I’m from Detroit and I’ve lived here, but lived in other places and was always planning on coming back home. It was 2008 and I had my hand in the business, but I wanted to get back full time into it. I had been doing some stuff locally, and then there was an opening. I’m glad to say that I’m over six years sober now and I got my stuff in order, and they needed someone and within a few months, I got a contract. It was one of the things where things work out when the timing is right, and you have to be patient.

MW: Sounds like the right timing! How about calling Detroit Mercy basketball games, how’d that begin? 

DL: Everything happened at the same time. When I first got to the Ticket, I got the Pistons post-game. Within that first year, the Titans job opened back up on radio, and they reached out to me and that got put together. I’ve been the radio voice for several years now, I’ve done TV but I’m back doing to radio. This is crazy in our business. Within six months, I got several jobs so it was a fortuitous year. You have to be grateful for opportunities, and I’m very thankful!

MW: Definitely – being grateful is key. Can you talk about your favorite moment while working at The Ticket?

DL: There’s been a lot, but if I had to say just one, I think the most important one was the night that Mike Ilitch died. During radio or tv or broadcasting, there are moments that are about personality and entertainment, but you’re also able to function as a conduit for the city and peoples’ emotions. It was a crazy night. I arrived about an hour before and there was an event at the station for THAW. We had all the people in and I got the alert, it just happened within minutes. The manager and I knew things would get crazy. I called the boss and asked how to handle it. Later on, Ken Holland, Jim Leyland, and Brad Ausmus all called in. The entire four hours was about a guy who shaped the city and put his soul into the Red Wings and Tigers. To be on that night, it was meaningful. Later afterward, the Ilitch family sent an email thanking us. To be part of it, it shows how important broadcasting is and how important being an on-air host is, because people wanted to hear about it.

Additionally, I’ve been able to do Lions post-game out in public and interact with fans and listeners, they mean a lot to me. People take you home with them and you mean a lot to them and be with them after a tough loss or win means a lot. I definitely got choked up with Leyland and callers. A lot of great moments with different people, but that was a different moment for me. It’s what broadcasting is all about and the people who use us for entertainment, but it was one of those nights that was emotional and there are a lot of connection people have to Mr. Ilitch. He’s been a big part of the success of the city for most of our lives.

MW: That all sounds good. So besides being on the air, do you often get into the team locker rooms for post-game interviews?

DL: Since I’ve worked here, I’ll cover the Tigers and Wings, but not really the Pistons. Jeff Riger is the main reporter and there’s a lot of times where other guys will fill in. But I’ve done that since I’ve started. If he’s not going to cover it, one of us will. It kind of rotates, but I’ve done locker room stuff since I started my career. As far as post game, I’ll do that whenever I cover those games when Jeff doesn’t do them.

I move around a lot and talk to people, but typically from the press box. I go to games as a fan and as a media member, and then there are times that I’ll go with my dad. I was lucky to get credentials.

It’s a business that’s changing and you never know what the next opportunity is. My goal was always to come back here which is where my heart and family is. I plan on staying here as long as possible, but you have to keep options open. Unfortunately, ESPN is laying people off and some people I knew and respect, so you never know what’s going to happen. MY goal is to do what I can for this area and rep this area. I’m very lucky to be able to work at the Ticket, it’s one of the great stations anywhere. So that’s the plan, but you always have to be open to what could happen and other opportunities as well.

MW: You recently participated in the annual Walk for Israel, how did that go? 

DL: It was great, happy to be involved. I did the commercial for them and it was less about making it about politics and more about bringing the communities together, and not just for Jewish people. It is an event that celebrations the relation of the United States with Israel. We’re allies. You know, there’s a lot of nonsense in the Middle East right now, but in our community, we have the fifth largest Jewish community, right here in metro-Detroit. It’s one of the biggest Jewish populations in the country. It was a lot of fun, and over two-thousand people went down Orchard Lake Road and the line of people went for a mile. It was a great event!

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