As an avid hockey fan as I am, especially growing up in Boston, you’ve always learned to love the sport. Whether it be pee wee hockey when you were a kid, right down to rooting for the Bruins or rooting for one of the four Boston college teams in the Beanpot, But one thing within the past few years that was a stand out was the NHL on NBC and the team-up of Eddie Olczyk and his partner, the notable Mike “Doc” Emrick.
Farewell to a Legend
With the novel Corona Virus causing complications all over the US, hockey was resuming under a safe bubble within 2 Canadian cities. While players and coaches were within either Edmonton or Toronto, Emrick was in Michigan. NBC set up a play-by-play studio in the 74 year old’s home to call the remainder of the season. On October 19th 2020, The Tampa Bay Lightening defeated the Dallas Stars to win the Staley Cup. Upon this night, Mike “DOC” Emrick would call his final game of his career, retiring from commentating.
Emrick gave this statement of his final broadcast. He says “Things change over 50 years, but much of what I love is unchanged. From then to now and into the years ahead. I still get chills seeing the Stanley Cup. I especially love when the horn sounds, and one team has one and the other hasn’t. All hostility can dissolve into the timeless great display of sportsmanship-The handshake line….I leave you with sincere thanks!”
Starting out in the Business
Mike Emrick was born in LaFontaine Indiana on August 1st 1946. He received his Bachelors in speech from Manchester University in Indiana. in 1968. In 1969, he got his Masters Degree in Communications for radio/television from Miami University. In 1976, he earned the nickname “Doc” by earning his PhD in Communications for radio/television from Bowling Green State University. He went on to teach speech and broadcasting at Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pa from 1969-71. While teaching there he got his first taste of the NHL as an unpaid correspondent covering the Pittsburgh Penguins for the Beaver County Times newspaper.
From his start in broadcasting in 1973, to being the first voice of the NJ Devils since moving to the state in the 1982-83 season, where he stayed until 1986. Emrick was busy during the 80’s aside from working with the Devils. He worked with the Philadelphia Flyers from 1983-1988. He was a spot announcer, and an in studio analyst when not covering national games. He worked with the Flyers until 1993 where he was promoted to lead play-by-play for local and cable broadcasted games in 1988. Emrick would also be paired with Bill Clement for four of the years in Philly.
In 1993, Emrick would return to the NJ Devils and would be the voice of the Devils replacing Gary Thorne. He would be in the booth for the Devils until 2011 where he would focus more on national televised games for NBC. Emrick even lent out his voice skills for the popular EA NHL sports games. His first game, along side Eddie Olczyk and “Inside-the-Glass” with Ray Ferraro was for NHL15. The trio would be featured on the popular series until NHL 20, where he was replaced by James Cybulski
An Original Broadcast style
Emrick always had a way with words. His passion for the game as well as his immense knowledge of the game made magic in the booth. Some have called Emrick’s knowledge ‘encyclopedic’ to go along with his eloquent vocabulary. Emrick’s style would be his own, and an example would be referring to a goalie’s equipment as paraphernalia. Or during line changes, Emrick would discuss facts about a players personal life, records, or contributions to sports.
Emrick would have a storied career doing play-by- play for hockey, however did cover other sports. Emrick performed play calling for the Olympics for NBC and CBS. Emrick called other sports for NBC, ESPN, CBS, NCAA basketball, and a few games for the NFL.. The most notable game called for the NFL was Brett Favre’s debut in a Packers uniform. Even sportswriter Peter King praised Emrick. He said Doc is one hell of a hockey announcer. If hockey were big in this country, he would be what Jack Buck used to be. Coming from Peter King, thats a hell of a compliment!
Hardware All His Own
Doc Emrick wasn’t just a voice and a man of words, he also has the hardware to back it up. While in the booth for the NJ Devils telecasts, he won the NY Reginal Emmy Award five times for his play-by-play calling on MSG Network. In 1997 he took home the National Cable ACE award for Best Play-by-Play for NBC. In 2004 Emrick was one of three winners of the Lester Patrick Trophy. This award is given annually by the NHL for outstanding service to hockey in the US. 2008 Brought the Hockey Hall of Fame awarded Foster-Hewitt Memorial award. Emrick was awarded this for his outstanding contributions to hockey broadcasting. January 30th, 2009 the NJ Devils honored Emrick for winning the award with a ceremony at Prudential Center.
Emrick was the first announcer to win the National Sports Emmy Award for “outstanding sports personality” in 2011. He was nominated in 08, and 09, before taking the award home. He won the award for his play-by-play work on NBC the previous year. In 2013 Emrick won the NSSA Sportscaster of the Year award. On January 9th 2014, the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Associations presented Emrick with the award. Of course, Sports Illustrated even named Emrick the 2014 Sports Media “Person of the Year.” Of course when Sports Illustrated gives you an award, it’s worldwide news!
A Voice for Hockey!
For me personally, I grew up on the Fred Cusick and Derek Sanderson play calling for the Bruins. That was back in the NESN/WSBK-TV 38 (channel 8 if you lived in Boston). Since then there have been many voices that took the mantle of play calling. Jack Edwards and Andy Brickley stand out with the local and cable games. Yet during the late 2000’s to current, if you watched a big game or playoffs for NBC, or their channel VS, you would hear Doc Emrick. His play calling was like a symphony of puck that would make the game all the more intense. Of course when calling Bruins games on NBC or VS, it would almost sound like a bias tone. I’d have many nights yelling at Emrick thru my television. But like he said, Once the game is over, you shake hands and show your Sportsmanship.
Doc Emrick is an exceptional play-by-play caller. His passion and love for the game come out within the words he would use was like magic. Even during playoff games, you knew how deep and passionate he was right down to the final horn, and calling the game over.
To Mike “Doc” Emrick, Thank you for all your years of honing your craft, giving us the best play by play hockey. Even though I myself am a bit bias about who the best is, I can still show a tremendous amount of respect and admiration. You were a tremendous talent, and playoff hockey will not be the same without your voice leading the charge.
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