The year has been a trying one for so many people. In spite of everything, the NHL successfully completed its longest season with the great Doc Emrick calling the Lightning winning the Stanley Cup over the Stars on Sept. 28.
Fittingly, Mike Doc Emrick had the call for NBC Sports. That included the series final goal scored by Blake Coleman to provide insurance for the Lightning in a 2-0 shutout to win the hard fought Stanley Cup Final in six games. It also included Emrick’s final call with some excited Bolts celebrating their team’s second ever Cup.
There was a cool trophy presentation where the team included captain Steven Stamkos in a memorable photo around NHL commissioner Gary Bettman before each member skated with the Cup. It was all described by the legendary Emrick, who had done this for 50 years. The last 14 for NBC and a network that went from OLN to Versus to NBCSN. A great broadcaster, who could make any game exciting with his unique description and anecdotes to keep the audience engaged.
When they had Emrick do a special video time capsule of the most challenging three month journey in a playoff bubble, we didn’t know it would be the final time he would talk to us through our televisions. The former Devils announcer who had the call of some truly memorable moments, announced his retirement from broadcasting earlier today in a video message shared by NBC Sports on Twitter.
It definitely caught many by surprise including me. How could it not? Maybe for the proud and brilliant, soft-spoken man who’s lived in Michigan for so long while sharing his passion for the Pittsburgh Pirates all these years, 2020 was the perfect time to call it a career. Listening to him do a voice-over of how he started in the game of hockey when legends like Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito played without helmets some 50 years ago, I understood why he decided to call it quits. The way he described how different the game was with goal judges seated behind the glass before video replay and technology confirmed goals, to how helmets became mandatory, and going from one ref to two, hockey is so different now.
Oh. It’s still a great game we can all enjoy. But the way Doc artfully told it was similar to his great long journey going from doing minor league games by the Port Huron Flags and Maine Mariners to getting his first big break with a new team that relocated to New Jersey called the Devils in 1982-83. His first stint there went until 1986 before winding up in several roles with rival teams such as the Flyers and even the Rangers. Astonishingly, before he returned to the Devils in ’93-94, he was the lead play-by-play man for the Flyers and worked with future ESPN analyst Bill Clement.
Ironically, Emrick replaced former Devils broadcaster Gary Thorne, who moved to ESPN and became the lead voice of National Hockey Night. Their careers are intertwined. Emrick’s work was outstanding with Fox Sports recognizing him as the voice of the number one team where be paired with Rangers analyst John Davidson. One of his most memorable calls was getting to announce his team the Devils winning their first Stanley Cup alongside Davidson on a late June summer night in ’95 at the old Meadowlands complex at Brendan Byrne Arena.
“The Stanley Cup to New Jersey,” he said. “The Devils are Stanley Cup Champions!”
It must’ve felt awesome to be able to call that a year following Mark Messier’s Game Six theatrics for the rival Rangers that carried them past the Devils in seven hard fought games and eventually the Cup. Emrick was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in the broadcasters wing as a Foster Hewitt recipient in 2008. The winner of six Emmy Awards who left the Devils in 2011 a year before they avenged a crushing loss to the Rangers, would have the memorable call of Adam Henrique scoring in overtime of Game Six to beat the Rangers in a Conference Final rematch 18 years later. A year removed from doing Devils telecasts, Doc couldn’t contain his excitement.
“Threw in front by Kovalchuk. Blocked there. They poke away at it. They scooooooree! Henrique! It’s over!!!”
It remains one of his best calls. Even if there was a tad bit of emotional bias attached to it given the circumstances with Martin Brodeur at age 40 finally avenging the seven-game defeat in ’94, it was understandable. I never held it against Emrick, who I was fortunate enough to work with behind the scenes during the ’00-01 season as a production assistant for the Devils truck for home telecasts. This is as genuine and professional man as there’s been.
The loss of Doc, who at 74 can finally enjoy family life with his wife Joyce, and spend time with their dogs and six horses in St. Clair, Michigan, is felt by the hockey world today. We love the man who gave us signature phrases like, “Waffle boarded away”, and “Hit the post with the shot.” There are others like referencing the goalpost as the pipe and the net as the cage.
This is a brilliant and passionate man, whose enthusiasm for calling not only hockey, but even Brett Favre’s first NFL start where he completed his first past to himself, is fondly remembered. He called NFL games for CBS and even did some NCAA basketball tournament games, which I never knew. He has done the National Lacrosse League All-Star Game and who could forget his entertaining calls of Summer Olympics Water Polo. It was insane. It felt like he was calling hockey except the athletes were swimmers in the pool playing a cool sport made cooler by Doc.
He also had the call of Zach Parise tying the gold medal game for Team USA versus Canada at the Vancouver Winter Games. Then, had Sidney Crosby’s golden goal for Canada in sudden death. Heartwarming for the Canadian side, but gut wrenching for American hearts. He did the first ever NHL Winter Classic with Crosby scoring the shootout winner with snow falling against the Sabres at Ralph Wilson Stadium in front of a then NHL record 71,217 fans on Jan. 1, 2008.
Doc Emrick has done it all. He’s been an exemplary person who’s represented the NHL and the sport of hockey well. He is a legend. We will miss him. But I’m glad he’s going out on his own terms. A truly authentic person who’s been great forever like Doc deserves that.
What a great man. He’s as genuine and kind hearted a person as there is. What I admire most is those unique qualities. He never forced his opinion on the audience. But if he disagreed with a missed call, he would often say, “And play continues”, for dramatic effect.
I kinda wish he could do one last Devils game with longtime partner Chico Resch. Doc and Chico were great together for two decades. Who didn’t love the way they played off each other? Plus Chico was a funny man with great stories from his playing days which included the Islanders, Devils and Flyers. You can’t replace that kind of dynamic duo. Even though Steve Cangialosi does a very good job on the call. Ken Daneyko isn’t Chico. Steve isn’t Doc.
I wish there were more Doc Emricks. We had another in Dave Strader, who lost his battle to cancer a few years ago. I got to work with him behind the scenes over at ESPN. Doc Emrick is a cancer survivor. He is someone to be cherished.