Micheal “Doc” Emrick is the greatest broadcaster in hockey. Now that Vin Scully has retired, he may be the best broadcaster in all of sports.
Possessing an eloquent vocabulary and encyclopedic knowledge of hockey, Doc is a rare play-by-play man who is both an authority on the game and a connoisseur of the language. His is one of the most recognizable voices in sports and brings an elegance to a rough-and-tumble game. To hear Emrick call a hockey game is a delight worth making time for. Emrick, who turned 70 last year, has called over 3,000 ice hockey games in his 40 years in the sport.
He has covered 11 Stanley Cup Finals, eight NHL All-Star Games, and five Olympic hockey tournaments, including the 2010 gold medal final, the most-watched hockey game in America in 30 years. Emrick has won four national Emmy Awards—the only hockey announcer ever to win one—and is the first member of the media to be inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame. A humble, thoughtful man, he started at the very bottom and, through hard work and honing his skills, has reached the top of his profession.
Michael Emrick was born in La Fontaine, Indiana, August 1, 1946. He attended tiny Manchester College where, as an undergrad, he made the one-hour trip to Fort Wayne to watch Komets hockey games. In Fort Wayne he befriended Bob Chase, the legendary voice of the Komets, and Emrick learned his craft while recording himself calling the games. Chase, who passed away this past Thanksgiving Day at 90, became Emrick’s mentor and remains the biggest professional influence on his life. After earning an undergraduate degree in speech at Manchester and a Masters in radio/television from Miami of Ohio, Emrick enrolled at Bowling Green State University in 1971.
While pursuing a degree in communications and in need of money, he got a job calling BGSU Falcons’ home hockey games for two seasons. He sent out tapes of his work and got his first chance in the pros in Port Huron, Michigan, as the voice of the Port Huron Flags. He continued to work on his dissertation and graduated from Bowling Green with a Ph.D. in 1976. The following year, Emrick was hired by the Maine Mariners of the American Hockey League, where he handled public relations as well as play-by-play duties. He was first called “Doc”—because of the Ph.D.—by Mariners team president Ed Anderson.
Emrick served as the first voice of the New Jersey Devils, joining the team for its inaugural 1982-83 season. After leaving for the Philadelphia Flyers the following year, he returned to New Jersey in 1993, where he served as the voice of the Devils for 21 years. In 2011, after one harrowing stretch in which he called eight games in eight different cities over ten days, he realized his work in the seventh and eighth games of that road trip were beneath his standard.
He could not always get to the morning skate of the teams he was covering, which is something he relishes for preparation. Emrick, who was hardly ever home, decided it was time to make a change and opted for covering national games only. Working for NBS Sports and NBC Sports Network with color analyst Eddie Olyczk, Doc currently covers one national game per week and the entire postseason, allowing him to extend his career. “I still love the games and enjoy what I’m doing,” says Emrick, who is a cancer survivor. According to Sam Flood, executive producer of NBC Sports, “Doc Emrick is the best play-by-play announcer ever to call the game of hockey.”
Mr. Emrick is a founding member, and still president of, the NHL Pronunciation Guide, which is used to help the league’s broadcasters with some of hockey’s most difficult names. Like legendary Yankee Stadium PA announcer Bob Sheppard, Emrick’s elocution and diction are precise.
The consummate wordsmith, he once used 153 verbs in a single game to describe the movement of the puck–“Squibbed on through…rifled along…pitchforked away…finessed on in.” His signature catchphrase, often used following a flurry of end-to-end, non-stop action is, “myyyyy-yyy-yyy goodness!” He serves as Vice President of the NHL’s Broadcaster’s Association and is also a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame selection committee.
Although hockey is his life, baseball is his first love. Emrick is an avid Pittsburgh Pirates fan. Growing up, he and his brother would listen to colorful Pirates announcer Bob Prince broadcast games on radio. As a grad student at Miami in 1969, the school needed a broadcaster on short notice, so Emrick called a game between Miami and Kent State.
In his words, he was, “Awful,”—but he was given another chance. In March 2016, he attended Pirates spring training in Florida and lived out his fantasy by calling a few innings of a game on television and radio. Four months later, Bob Costas invited Doc to join him in Pittsburgh to do a Cubs-Pirates game for the MLB Network. “This is the ultimate gift from Bob and the MLB Network,” said Emrick, who was brilliant in the telecast. “It’s a lifetime memory.”
The preeminent announcer in hockey admits he still gets nervous before big games and has an anxiousness to get underway. It reminds him of one of his favorite stories. “Wayne Gretzky was playing for the New York Rangers near the end of his career and they’d called up a young player from Hartford. The kid is going to play in his first NHL game and he’s pacing back and forth in the dressing room and Wayne quietly looked up at him and asked, ‘You nervous, kid?’ The kid nodded his head yes, and Wayne said, ‘So am I.’”
Michael Emrick is currently in his 40th year of calling hockey, 33 of them in the NHL. In 2004, he received the Lester Patrick Award in honor of his contribution to hockey in the U.S., and in 2008 was given the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award, hockey’s top honor for outstanding work in radio and television. Emrick won the 1997 National CableACE Award for best play-by-play announcer and, in 2009, was honored with “Doc Emrick Night” by the New Jersey Devils. In 2014, Sports Illustrated named Mike Emrick as its 2014 sports media “Person of the Year.”
On this date in 2014, Micheal Emrick received the Sportscaster of the Year award, given out by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association.