If there was any doubt how beloved broadcaster Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick is in the hockey world, the media conference call to mark his retirement put it to rest. A number of high-profile friends ‘crashed’ the call, including NBC exec Sam Flood, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, New York Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello, fellow broadcast legend Al Michaels and Emrick’s long-time booth partner, Eddie Olczyk.
Emrick is hanging up his microphone cord after 47 years of broadcasting pro games and 50 years of hockey journalism and it was an emotional Olczyk who really put Emrick’s impact into perspective.
“I thank you,” Olczyk said. “We all thank you, Doc, for your passion, your love for the game, your appreciation and love for people and I thank you for trusting me 14 years ago when Sam gave me the opportunity to sit next to you for the first time on NBC.”
The fact so many high-profile names took time out of their schedules to celebrate Emrick publicly speaks volumes, but the reason the play-by-play ace is so universally revered is that he treated everyone involved in hockey with the same kindness – which of course includes the fans.
“They’re the backbone of the sport,” Emrick said. “People who care about the sport mean a lot to me and that includes those who pay the price of the admission. Fan clubs have meant a lot to me and have always been so cordial to me that I try to always attend their meetings – I’m scheduled to be a virtual guest at the Devils fan club meeting next week.”
Emrick’s passion is backed up by an incredible resume. The man worked 22 Stanley Cup finals, won eight Emmys for sports play-by-play (the most anyone has ever won in the category) and was the first broadcaster inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. He’s a member of seven Halls of Fame, to be precise, and also called six Olympic tournaments.
While Emrick didn’t have a favorite all-time call, he did pull back the curtain on one famous Olympic moment, when he was doing play-by-play at the 2014 Games in Sochi for the Team USA/Russia game that went to a shootout. T.J. Oshie ended up as the hero for the Americans, scoring four times in the shootout (Emrick noted however, that Jonathan Quick was just as important in net for the Americans) and once the victory was sealed, Emrick asked his producer to get a shot of the stands.
“As he showed the fans leaving for the exits,” Emrick recalled, “I said ‘They paid their rubles to see the home team win. But not this game, not tonight.’ Which was the phrase used by Herb Brooks before Team USA played the Soviet Union in Lake Placid in 1980.”
Those are the types of moments Emrick will be remembered for; moments of care and reflection.
“You have been simply magnificent at your craft,” Bettman said. “You have been a magnificent representative of hockey for the past 50 years. There’s nobody who does a play-by-play as well as you do and I want to thank you for all the incredible energy and effort you’ve given us and our fans. You are just a treasure.”
Emrick won’t be completely off the hockey world’s radar, however. He will still do some video essays for NBC and he also has a book coming out tomorrow entitled “Off Mike,” an autobiography. All the proceeds that Emrick receives from that book will be donated to animal charities, a cause near and dear to the pet owner’s heart.
But Emrick certainly earned his retirement. He has flown millions of miles and covered an incredible amount of games, touching the hearts of fans, media and NHLer alike. Other than a cancer scare in 1991, he has been quite healthy and he is certainly appreciative of that.
“Reflecting back on that time, I’m still OK. In Michigan, we have the height of fall with great color today and that’s where we are at the Emrick house, humans and creatures. Not as young as we were, but we are in a great place right now and able to enjoy this time in our collective lives. For the first time since that 1970-71 season in Pittsburgh, I won’t be putting game dates on a calendar anymore.”