The week began with some bittersweet news. Mike “Doc” Emrick, the main play-by-play announcer for NBC since they secured NHL broadcast rights for the NHL in the United States retired. After 50 years as a broadcaster in the game of hockey, a legendary voice has called his last game. The game will always have a special place in the hearts of Lightning fans since it was Game Six of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final. His last goal call - Blake Coleman:
I suppose for many, that will be their favorite memory of Emrick. Because, for most of us, that was when it felt real. The two-goal lead was the moment we allowed ourselves to believe that the Lightning were going to pull off the Stanley Cup victory.
His is a voice that we’ve heard a lot of over the past decade or so. Every major game, from Winter Classics to Stanley Cup Finals has featured his voice. Somehow he even had time to narrate an Orlando Solar Bears season opening video.
Some of the blowback from hockey fans might revolve around the omnipresence of his voice and the fact that if he was calling a game there was a better than average chance that the Penguins, Blackhawks or Capitals were on the TV. The annoyance of the over-reliance on those teams somewhat unfairly bled over to Doc.
He had his detractors (my mother-in-law thought he was “too nasally”) but even his biggest critics can’t deny his joy for the game. Even after calling thousands of games he gave the impression that he still liked hockey (compare that to Mike Milbury’s sheer boredom and borderline distaste for the game in the Columbus series this year).
So that’s this week’s QOTW - what is your favorite memory/goal call/commercial/word/chance meeting of Doc Emrick.
I don’t know if I have anyone one specific memory or goal call from Doc, though the Coleman one is up there. For me, it’s the word “waffleboarded”. That word and the 1,000 other ways he described hockey plays is what I will remember him by. Not just the word itself, but the fact that it never felt forced when he used a unique way to describe a routine play.
I never got the feeling that he had a list of a verbs that he needed to check off instead of saying “pass”. Instead they were just what popped in his head to describe what happened on the ice. If you watch enough hockey then you know there is a difference between a puck being “rouletted” into the zone and one being “pitch-forked” in.
For me it was always a treat to listen to him call a game not only because of the way he described the action, but also because he never assumed his listeners were all hockey expects. At least two or three times a game he would ask his analysts a question that he surely knew the answer to, after 50 years of watching hockey there isn’t much about the game he doesn’t know, just to have them explain what was happening and, more importantly, why.
One particular moment that I remember from this year’s final came in Game Five or Six (it’s still a bit blurry for me) and involved the Dallas Stars dumping the puck into the zone and Andrei Vasilevskiy playing the puck almost every time. Instead of ignoring it and just calling the action, he prompted a discussion from his analysts about what was happening and why it wasn’t working well for the Stars.
He was a really good announcer who never seemed jaded by the game. That’s what I’ll remember about Doc.
Oh, and this:
Having New Jersey, where Doc was the TV broadcaster (Doc and Chico for the win...sorry not sorry) for many years before going to NBC, as your local AHL team’s parent club during the 90s has its advantages.
While the NHL was on lockout during the 1994-95 season, my beloved River Rats got a few games of TV time on SportsChannel (we’re dating ourselves here folks), with Doc doing the play by play.
Every spring, the Albany River Rats Booster Club had an end of season awards banquet for the team, giving out honors that the members voted on (favorite player, unsung hero, etc.) and having a guest speaker come in to entertain the guests. Doc came north to Albany for the 1998 banquet and told stories about his broadcasting start in the 1970s in the minors. He even presented one of the rookies with the team’s Most Improved Player award, chosen by the coaching staff—you might have heard of John Madden, who went on to win 2 Stanley Cups with New Jersey.
My favorite Doc call of all time? This one.
There ya go. Who else out there has some Doc memories?