Sun. Jul 14th, 2024

In a year defined by substantial decisions, Michael “Doc” Emrick is the latest domino to fall as the voice of hockey decided to step away from broadcasting after nearly half a century, highlighted by 22 Stanley Cup Finals, 6 Olympic Games and a staggering 45 Game sevens.

The mark of a truly great commentator is their ability to decipher, depict and measure the moment almost instantaneously. Over the years, sports fans have grown accustomed to the “Bang!” from Mike Breen after a dagger three, Jim Nantz whispering as he details the roll of the ball on the final green at Augusta National, Joe Buck calling the last pitch of the World Series or Al Michaels sneaking in a gambling tidbit after crucial scores during the fourth quarter of Sunday Night Football.

Emrick encompassed all of those things and then some. Doc is a living library of a sport that went from wooden sticks, little technology and optional helmets to composite sticks, netting and cameras above the glass and helmets with visors sponsored by Oakley.

His passion for the game is what has driven his success in the broadcast booth. It could be game one of 82, a crowdless bout in the NHL bubble, or the deciding game of the Stanley Cup Finals, Doc captivated every moment with great admiration and equal sentiment.

Rivaling the depth of the hundreds of verbs in Doc’s repertoire was his ascension to the top. He started out calling college and Minor League games before working his way up with the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers. After exploding onto the scene in local markets, Doc took his talents to the national scale and enjoyed time at CBS, ABC, ESPN, Fox and eventually his final destination, NBC Sports.

Doc’s accolades are almost as unassailable as his vocabulary. Starting with simple hockey terms like dumped, lobbed and blocked, Doc began pushing the envelope by using words hockey fans never before attributed with the sport. All of a sudden, pitchforked, soccered, sparred and skittered were introduced and met without reservation. A sport with flying changes, grown men skating anywhere from 20–30 miles per hour and pucks being shot faster than cars are allowed to drive, Doc’s commentary complemented the aura of the moment in ways we may never see again.

Today, people like comfort and prefer to plan ahead. The polar opposite is what distinguishes Doc Emrick. Doc thrived in an atmosphere that provided no script and required constant improvisation from the moment the referees dropped the puck. Doc has called nearly 4,000 games in his illustrious career and has never seemed to get a single word wrong. His thorough preparation, love for the game and genuine humility has set him apart from the pack.

“My role is to be a conduit between the skill of the players and the understanding of the fans,” Emrick once said. “I’m just more or less someone who can describe something, and hopefully with passion.”

 It’s no surprise that Doc is the lone broadcaster inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

 

 

Nico Meola is a current graduate student with a B.A. in communications and a minor in journalism. 

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