With the uncertainty due to COVID-19, Mike “Doc” Emerick made the call on Monday to officially retire from a career in broadcasting. Speaking in an exclusive with Phil Mushnick, he said just before the announcement, “I hope I can handle retirement OK, especially since I’ve never done it before. But I’ve just been extremely lucky for 50 years. And NBC has been so good to me, especially since the pandemic, when I was allowed to work from home in a studio NBC created.”
One of my many favourite memories was when I moved to New Jersey in 2005 from the East Longmeadow, Massachusetts. The same town where Frank Vatrano started his journey towards the National Hockey League.
I remember Doc screaming goal calls from the modes “score” to “SCOOORE” when he got excited. One of my fondest memories from Ilya Kovalchuk’s first game as a Devil was when Travis Zajac tied the game against the Maple Leafs. Doc said, “SCOOORE ZAJAC.. tie game.” Then, on the final scoring drive, “Rebound.. SCOOORE PANDOLFO!”
I remember it was a very beautiful wintery evening that evening and listening to Doc made it sound majestic. He was a great personality and was a living high speed speaker who used words from his own thesaurus while in improvisation during live games. Never would I have thought to use words like “jostled, pitchforked, ladled, corralled” and countless others during a game.
Doc was that unique and special as a broadcaster. Even his pre-game prep work was special on players, and even recognizing people like an organist that made Doc click.
My career at Columbia Senior High School in Maplewood, NJ made me pursue TV studio from 2005-2008 and having that influence of Doc’s energy and his career driven passion for all of hockey, that got me started long before podcasting was an idea. When the Winter Olympics were held in Vancouver, one of my favourite moments of Doc calling games was when Zach Parise and Jamie Langenbrunner were playing for Team USA while opposing Scott Niedermayer and Martin Brodeur for Team Canada. A non-Devils player I enjoyed getting the shivers down my spine from was Ryan Kesler with Team USA as he drew in for an empty net goal.
The diving poke check goal of Ryan Kesler with Cory Perry trying to knock him off the puck made Doc scream in a crescendo for an empty net goal. Another amazing Olympic game I enjoyed Doc call was the T.J. Oshie shootout winner versus the Russian National team with opponents like Ilya Kovalchuk, and Pavel Datsyuk in the middle of their primes. Hearing Doc go “SAVE BY (name of goaltender)” always made my heart pump. Seeing Oshie score the game winning shootout goal on Sergei Bobrovsky was an exciting moment called by Doc.
For the NHL and the New Jersey Devils to truly honour this legendary broadcaster, who called so many games with a wonderful personality guy like Glen Chico Resch, the Devils should not only give him a plaque and a statue in and outside Prudential Center, but also give him a banner with a microphone with “Emrick” hoisted by center ice. Every generation of hockey fans will listen and learn all the many moments Doc created.
To me, the English language, as a native speaker, is super complicated, yet at a very fast paced, an improv sport like hockey at the NHL level uses very few adjectives. Doc used words like “squibbed, waffle boarded, drubbed, skittered, jostled” along with so many others it was an impressive vocabulary. Yet when I teach people learning to speak English the American way, I always send YouTube videos of Doc in both his play-by-play and interviews.
Doc has set such a high bar and one of those favourite bars he set was Game 6 Eastern Conference Finals 2012. New Jersey hosted the Rangers and I was section 208 that day. Every time the Devils scored, I could play in my head a play-by-play call of Doc screaming, “HE SCOOOOORES!” That fanatical cry you hear in such an intense geographical rivalry game and watching highlights of Doc calling that series was more thrilling than watching a movie.
I remember when I saw guys like Marek Zidlicky, a Slovak offensive-defensemen, who got a side board pass from Steve Bernier from the wall and the call, “Angled back Zidlicky a shot… SCORES IT’S (Ryan) CARTER, IT’S TIED!!!” One of the best calls I saw in person during the Game 6 ECF game in 2012 was at the nine minute, 55 second mark when Stephen Gionta and Stever Bernier blitzed Henrik Lundqvist, setting up Ryan Carter for the opening goal of the game. Doc would say, “Brought on by Bernier, but (Stephen) Gionta breaking to him.. SAVE, REBOUND.. SCORE!!”
Having had Doc Emrick call many important Stanley Cup Championship games from 1995 to 2020 are some of the most thrilling Stanley Cups Doc could ask for during his tenure. I always liked how Doc was so philosophical, open minded and his very friendly yet always so positive mindset made more fans enjoy his presence calling games so special.
It’s going to be very hard for the NHL to replace Mike Doc Emrick on NBC. When Emrick left to join NBC, MSG Networks brought in another very formal and well educated sports broadcaster in Steve Cangialosi, who calls both Devils hockey and the New York Red Bulls MLS games. I knew it wasn’t the same when Doc left MSG, but Cangialosi calling Devils games gave me great joy to see how he has carried the torch from Doc.
Nothing will ever be the same without Doc, but I would love to see Glen Chico Resch, his old co-worker and colour commentator, be at a special ceremony honouring Doc’s legacy to the game of hockey. In the world of podcasts, I honestly believe Doc should be joined by someone like Chico and others because this generation of fans and professionals will always want to hear Doc talk. Doc has this special energy where people could listen to him for hours and still feel excited to want more of him while he’s in retirement.