Say it ain’t so, Doc!
Mike “Doc” Emrick, the incomparable Voice of the NHL, Monday morning will retire, as per a shared announcement with NBC Sports.
Emrick, 74, rose from calling college and minor league hockey radio broadcasts to develop an enthralling style that emphasized superior, often mesmerizing play-by-play: Original on-the-fly, bull’s-eye descriptions; a great knowledge of the game; current and past anecdotal info, timed to perfection; strong, warm relationships with his color analysts; and a modest charm that radiated as real. He forced nothing. He just knew how to know.
“I hope I can handle retirement OK,” he said Sunday night from his home in Michigan, “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.
“Now, into my golden years, this just seemed to be the time that was right.
“Plus, I’ve now accumulated enough frequent-flyer miles — to not go anywhere.”
Perhaps the greatest tributes to Emrick have been paid by non-hockey fans, often women, who, while hearing Emrick in passing, asked, “Who is this guy? He’s wonderful!”
Emrick was the rarest of TV announcers in that his presence could entice us to watch then even stick with blowouts, rather than risk losing what he might say.
Born in Indiana and still a devoted Pittsburgh Pirates fan from listening to Bob Prince over KDKA Radio, Emrick is a 19-year cancer survivor. He earned his Ph.D and nickname in broadcasting while at Bowling Green. He and his wife, Joyce, plus dogs and horses, have for years lived in Michigan.
There is nothing Emrick hasn’t done on behalf of hockey, including becoming the founder of the NHL’s increasingly valued NHL [players’] Pronunciation Guide, and never turning down an interview request including — and especially — from high school kids who aspire to careers in broadcasting.
Emrick is in, at last count, seven halls of fame.
That he’d establish himself as an East Coast voice — Hershey Bears, Maine Mariners, Flyers, Rangers’ radio, Devils — before ESPN, CBS and finally NBC — was this region’s great fortune.
On a personal, off-air basis, Emrick is the ultimate mensch. A deacon in the Methodist Church, his gentle sense of humor and unyielding patience and respect for all creates envy for a life well-lived, with plenty left to give.
Emrick once met flattery with the suggestion that folks name their progeny “Doc” by saying “as long as it’s not Grumpy, Dopey or Sleepy.”
Sam Flood, executive producer of NBC Sports, put it very well: “Doc is a national treasure. Simply put, he’s one of the best ever to put on a headset.”
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