Growing up as a New Jersey Devils’ fan meant if I wasn’t in a seat at Continental Airlines Arena, I would be watching the action from home courtesy of Chico Resch and Mike “Doc” Emrick. Emrick would leave the Devils in 2011 to take on a national broadcasting job, but his ties to New Jersey were never forgotten. Especially because Emrick calmly called the crowning moment in Devils’ franchise history, the 1995 Stanley Cup championship. Years later, he would return to a broadcast booth in New Jersey to excitedly tell us: “Henrique, it’s over!”
Just over a week ago, Doc Emrick formally announced his retirement from calling NHL hockey games on NBC. Though it’s hard, almost impossible, to image the game of hockey without that familiar voice, the full impact of Doc’s persona is truly starting to be felt.
There have been a lot of famous sports broadcasters tasked with “painting the word picture” of the game. Some broadcasters had signature calls, just as New York Yankees radio broadcaster John Sterling has his famous personalized home run calls. Doc on the other hand, decided to put the dictionary to work in ways no sports broadcaster has ever done before. Because of him, words buried in the pages of Merriam Webster’s book such as “waffleboarded” would become common lexicon for us hockey fans for years to follow.
The sport of hockey has always been “different”, for lack of a better word. It attract its own unique set of fans who prefer cold buildings instead of hardwood courts or outdoor fields. We are different people, watching a different sport, and Doc spoked to us in his own different hockey language.
That’s what made Doc so appealing. Even if you knew nothing about hockey, his mile-a-minute descriptive exploits would capture your attention. Once he got your attention, you were hooked.
Every Day Is A New Adventure
When the tributes to Doc’s work started coming out, Liz Roscher of Yahoo News said it best that “Emrick could keep you interested because he was always interested.” Most sports broadcasters go about their job with each game being “just another day at the office”. For these lucky few that make a living watching great sports accomplishments, they’ve been there and seen it all. Doc made sure he was the exact opposite of that.
Every game was a new experience for Doc and his viewers. Watching every game with Doc felt like you were were watching your first game. It’s ironic because if anyone in the hockey word had done and seen it all, it was Doc. But, Doc knew that his viewers ranged from the diehards who watch 82 games a season to a young child just tuning in for the first time, and he found a way to make it equally exciting for both of them and every viewer in between.
The Importance of Broadcasting
Doc was a student of the game and a walking historian. He could tell you what’s happening on the ice, while seamlessly weaving it into a relevant story from his vast memory banks of hockey knowledge. Every game wasn’t a game, it was also a lesson to his viewers. They didn’t need to take notes to walk away after the game feeling smarter about the sport than they were when they tuned in.
Thinking back on all the different sports and sports broadcasters, Doc has one essential thing the rest of them lacked. Doc Emrick might have been the only broadcaster that made his job in the television booth seem just as exciting as the players on the ice. Listening to him made being a broadcaster seem just as fun as being Scott Stevens, with a lot less injuries of course.
Doc, thank you for the great moments and enjoy your retirement. You’ll forever be remembered in the hockey world for your excitement and passion.