In 2020 Mike “Doc” Emrick hung up his hockey announcer’s hat and joined the rest of the hockey fans in simply viewing the game from the comfort of their homes. But who was Mike Emerick? How did he become the voice of the NHL? And what is he most known for?
Interesting Facts About Doc Emrick
1.) His nickname “Doc” comes from the doctorate he received from Bowling Green State University.
2.) To prepare for a game, he would fill out two sheets crammed full of facts, from scoring to penalties to shots on goal. This was all a byproduct of the newspapers he would peruse before each game.
3.) When he would travel for a game, he would always get a room with double beds. One bed was for his sleeping; the other held all of his newspaper clippings and notes for the upcoming game.
4.) Doc was also known for his sense of humor. In one particular game, where they were going into multiple overtimes, he and Bill Clement got up to some silly antics that involved undressing for their broadcasting.
More Fun Facts
5.) In his nearly 50-year career, he called 3,750 professional and Olympic hockey games.
6.) He was the commentator for a total of 43 Stanley Cup game 7s and 22 Stanley Cup Finals.
7.) He would broadcast 6 Olympic Winter games, including the most watched in 40 years. It was the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, and it was the USA vs. Canada Gold Medal Men’s Hockey Game with 26.7 million viewers.
8.) Doc is a big believer in paying it forward. He advocates for women in hockey and has always gone above and beyond to help those who want to get into broadcasting.
9.) In 1991, he was diagnosed with stage 1 prostate cancer. He is currently cancer-free.
Mike Emrick Background
Before The Voice of Hockey had a nearly 50-year career as an iconic sportscaster, Mike was raised in La Fountain, Indiana, population 627. He grew up in the 1950s, an idyllic, peaceful, and prosperous time in his words.
Both he and his brother played baseball due to their small stature. Despite being a decent baseball player, even at the young age of 9, Emrick knew that broadcasting baseball was where his heart was. His parents encouraged him to do anything, including making mistakes and learning from them.
He was 14 when he first saw a live hockey game. It was then that his dreams took a shift from baseball to hockey. After he got his driver’s license, he started to go to the Allen County Coliseum, where the Fort Wayne Komets played their home games.
Bob Chase: Emrick’s Mentor
On nights when the games didn’t sell out, Mike would sit in a corner and quietly broadcast the games to himself. He used a real-to-real tape recorder with a wired microphone that he held on his lap. After some time, he built up the courage to meet the real Komet’s broadcaster, Bob Chase.
He convinced him to meet under the pretext that he needed a subject for his school term paper. It didn’t take long for the two to become friends, but Chase also became a mentor to the future Voice of Hockey.
Mike Emrick would surprise Chase at his 90th birthday celebration, a friendship that would last for years to come. Chase, who was still the broadcaster for the Komets, would do the play-by-play with Doc that night, and the two gave a magical performance.
Bob Chase would pass away later that year, but to Emrick, he would never forget the man who got him started on the path to being a great sportscaster.
How Mike Became an NHL Broadcaster
Upon graduating college, he first became a teacher. He applied for a doctorate to teach classes without having to pay for tuition. His mind was split between Bowling Green State in Ohio and the University of Michigan. Each had campus stations and also carried hockey games.
In the end, he picked Green State because he was told that a student did the play-by-play for the second period of each game. A man of caution, he figured that he could fall back on teaching if his broadcasting career didn’t pan out by getting his doctorate. And it’s lucky for the world of hockey that it did.
The year was 1973, and Mike was in his first year as a doctoral student. Needing better to understand a professional sports broadcaster’s working life and fulfill his doctorate requirements, he reached out to the Detroit Tigers organization.
Mr. Ernie Harwell, the then-Tigers broadcaster, met with him and was more than happy to introduce him to his collection of colleagues. Mike not only got to meet other broadcasters and writers within the field, but Ernie also helped him secure an interview with Al Kaline, the right fielder for the team.
Not long after, he would find himself working as the radio and public relations director for the International Hockey League’s Port Huron Flags. The pay was $160 per week, but he found himself marveling at the world of hockey.
After this, he would spend some time with the Maine Mariners for the AHL. He followed this with time employed by their affiliate club, the Philadelphia Flyers. But it was the newly named and relocated New Jersey Devils where he would earn his fame in 1983.
Doc Emrick and the Devils
When Doc joined the team, the Devils had no superstars, and in Emrick’s words, the team was terrible. And while the team admitted to not winning many games, they strongly felt like they had the best announcer in hockey. He was said to have brought credibility to the New Jersey franchise.
Former professional goaltender, Chico Resch, would join him in the booth as a color commentator. Chico compared working with Mike Emrick to playing with Wayne Gretzky. A dream to work with the greatest in his mind, but a lot to live up to.
Doc’s broadcasting belief came from simplicity. He taught Chico that it was their job to bring enthusiasm to the fans. Because if they couldn’t get their energy to the mics, how could the fans at home be expected to have confidence in the game?
Later, when players like Brodeur would come to play for the team, he would tell you that the team would take a lot of pride in having Doc broadcast their games. He brought unparalleled energy to each match he called.
Doc was there for countless New Jersey victories, from breaking records to winning Stanley cups. He would spend 18 years with the team. But in that time, he would modestly say that all he did was show up to his job. They would provide him with a good seat there, and he would describe what he saw.
Martin Brodeur Jersey Retired
When Martin Brodeur would have his number retired, he would select non-other than Doc Emrick to MC his special moment. It says a lot about the magic he created when the players considered him part of the organization.
When the tables turned, and it was time for Doc to retire, the organization honored him in a way he didn’t see coming. First, they flew his family out for the special event. Next, they gave him a car, his wife some flowers, and a jersey with his name and number 1 on the back.
Doc Emrick’s Big Vocabulary
Doc was well-known for using words that no other color commentator would use. It was often said that even if you didn’t know the word’s meaning, you understood what he meant. Possibly one of his most unique was the expression: “Sometimes you eat peas with a knife and still get nourishment.”
See Hockey Slang – Canadian Style
When asked about this odd phrase, he explained that it came from his childhood on a golf course. The owner watched his brother use a putter to clear an obstacle. After he cleared it, the owner used the expression “you ate peas with a knife.” Simply put, it wasn’t pretty, but you did the job.
Over the years, he used over 100 verbs to describe the puck at play. These words included: sashayed, lobbed, speared, flopped, spirited, chipped, knifed away, shuffle boarded, Shillelaghed, pitchforked, and ladled, to name but a few.
It’s hard to come up with a single compilation that does his unique calls justice. Simply typing in “Doc Emrick’s best calls” in any search engine will bring up varied opinions with many overlaps. But to share at least a taste with you, click on the link below to hear some of his best calls from over the years.
Best Calls Video
Awards and Accolades
When you think of a sports broadcaster, you often don’t think about the awards they win, and yet that is what Mike Emrick did time and time again. He has won the play-by-play award for the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences at the annual Sports Emmys seven out of nine years running.
To add to his Emmys, he received the Lester Patrick Award in 2004. This honors and is presented to someone who has provided outstanding service to hockey. He also received the Hockey Hall of Fame Foster Hewitt Memorial Award in 2008 for all of his countless contributions to hockey broadcasting.
Retirement Well Wishes
When Doc Emrick announced his retirement, the hockey world stopped breathing for one brief moment. Many questions were asked, but probably one was at the forefront of every fan’s mind. Who will fill the void he leaves behind?
Here is a collection of good wishes that were tweeted to him when that sad day finally came to show how beloved he was.
Kris Letang tweeted: “The biggest moments of my career will live forever with your calls. Thank you for the conversations. Thank you for making hockey sound so graceful. Congratulations on a remarkable career.”
From the New Jersey Devils: “Simply incredible. Enjoy your retirement, Doc.”
And the Philadelphia Flyers: “#ThankYouDoc for your contribution to hockey and being part of amazing memories and moments like this one. Congratulations, and enjoy retirement.”
To add to the Flyers, the Flyers Alumni said: “Happy retirement, Mike “Doc” Emrick, a true living legend in hockey broadcasting. We were honored to have you call @NHLFlyers games locally for 13 years and nationally for long beyond that!”
A Career Remembered
From Nick Foligno, Columbus Blue Jackets captain: “To me, a great career is one where you inspire people and leave your place of work better than when you came in. That’s what “Doc” did for the people and fans of hockey! Wishing you all the best in retirement! Thanks for being the voice behind so many great moments!”
And of course, Martin Brodeur: “To the Voice of Hockey, HOF broadcaster, and friend, congratulations on an amazing career! Enjoy your retirement!”
These are just a few of the amazing tributes he received from the world of hockey. It was more than the excitement he brought to the games; it was how he connected the fans with each play. And it’s how he perfectly described each moment.
Emrick’s Call That He Wants Back
When asked if there were any calls he would want to do over, he answered yes. The scene was the 2010 Stanley Cup final, and it was game six in Philadelphia versus the Chicago Blackhawks. It was overtime, and Patrick Kane would be the one to score the cup-clinching goal.
But the goal was filled with confusion, and while Kane knew it went in the net, not everyone else was sure. Not even the referees. Doc was told to sell the moment despite the uncertainty, so he did. If he were to go back in time, he would redo it with the certainty and enthusiasm the moment deserved.
Mike Emrick FAQs
Here are some frequently asked questions about Mike Emrick.
His nickname “Doc” comes from the doctorate he received from Bowling Green State University.
Emrick called 22 Stanley Cup Finals.
Doc Emrick worked six Olympics.
Emrick won nine national Emmy Awards.
Emrick announced his retirement on October 19, 2020.
What He’ll Remember Most Video
Before I add some final thoughts about Mike “Doc” Emrick, I thought it would be nice to share his thoughts on retiring with you. What he will remember most about the nearly 50 years he spent in the world of hockey.
When matched up with another broadcaster, he would describe the many relationships he had over the years as like family. He told a partnership as one that needs to wear well. In all the years he was a sportscaster, he declares that he was blessed by many people who wear well with him.
He would take personal stories that a player would trust him to share and weave them into his play-by-play. This is what helped connect players with the fans. Throughout all the countless memories he gave us and all that he gave to the world of hockey, he considers himself the fortunate one. No, Doc, I’m afraid we were.
By Danielle L’Ami
Danielle is a Canadian who loved cheering her favorite team, the Montreal Canadiens, all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. Her most significant memory of hearing Doc give his magical commentary to a game was the 2010 Olympic Men’s Gold Medal Hockey Game when Canada won the gold medal.
You are on our The Incomparable Mike “Doc” Emrick page.
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