Thank You Doc: Legendary Broadcaster Announces Retirement

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

It wasn’t long ago that we watched as the 2019-20 NHL season came to a close with the Tampa Bay Lightning winning the Stanley Cup...on a Monday night in September. On the call that night for Game 6 and the final game of the season was Mike “Doc” Emrick, as we had always come to expect, proclaiming the victors of the greatest trophy in all of sports. 

As the game and season finally ended and the championship had been won, a video montage ran, narrated by Doc, that was just another reminder of why we love this game and appreciate it. Little did we know that this was the beginning of Doc’s farewell address to the audience that has come to know and love him. 

Emrick announced his retirement from broadcasting after 47 years, many of them spent on national platforms like ESPN, ABC and NBC.

Doc’s beginnings came in Port Huron with the Flags in the International Hockey League (IHL) in 1973, but four years later, he was calling AHL games for the Maine Mariners, then the Philadelphia Flyers’ affiliate. After five seasons, the New Jersey Devils came calling. 

Doc primarily called Devils games from 1982 to 1986, but filled in on occasion as a spot announcer for Flyers home games. In 1986, he joined the Flyers staff as a studio host, then took over play-by-play duties in 1988. He also started calling games nationally in 1986. 

For the next five seasons, Doc was one of the voices of the Flyers, then made his return to the Devils in 1993, a role he held for 18 seasons through 2011, when he solely focused on national work for NBC. 

In total, Doc called an excess of 3,750 hockey games, among them 22 Stanley Cup Finals, 45 Game 7s, six Olympics, 14 All-Star Games and 19 outdoor games between the Winter Classic and Stadium Series. 

In many sports, broadcasters become beloved because they find a way to connect with their audience, to make every game seem to matter that much more. It didn’t matter if Doc was calling a game between two marquee teams in the playoffs or calling a mid-January affair between two of the NHL’s bottom-feeders. He had a way to hook you into the game and make it feel like Game 7. 

Often imitated, never duplicated, Doc spoke like an auctioneer, rattled off a plethora of verbs to describe player and puck movement and raised his voice at all the appropriate moments to heighten the suspense. When Doc was on the call, it wasn’t just a game. It was a high-action drama unfolding in front of your eyes. 

Emrick earned the nickname “Doc” because of his PhD in communications, but he was as much a friend and student of the game as anyone. He was on a pedestal for so many of us involved in the game, but his own status was secondary to those around him. He always wanted to shift the conversation to you instead of be showered in praise and admiration. He marveled at the fact that a career could be made watching this game and getting free admission to do it. After six seasons of doing this myself, believe me, I know where he’s coming from. 

He marveled at the ability of the players he watched. He knew he wasn’t cut out to play the game and appreciated the ones who could. It is a game so physically demanding, so poetic and yet brutal simultaneously, and that made it all the more magnificent. 

One of the things Mike and Brodes have discussed on the 97.3 ESPN airwaves, particularly during the Flyers most recent playoff run, was just how difficult hockey conversation on sports talk radio can be to generate. There are certainly several schools of thought on this.

It is a difficult game to comprehend with its speed. There is little time to second guess a decision or a play. Blink, and you may miss what even caused the play to occur. The reason it is so hard to second guess is because many who watch it know that if they were thrust into the same situation, placed in a spot where they had to make a decision or a play, they wouldn’t even know where to begin. The average sports fan who partakes in touch football games or beer league softball sees a baseball play in the field or a play in football and thinks they could draw up something better or perhaps make the play themselves. Not in hockey. Not in a sport that is so artistic, creative, and executed on a sheet of ice wearing to boots with 3/16-inch blades.

Doc was able to capture that magic and wizardry that takes place on the ice. He perfectly captured the mass chaos that occurred in real time, rarely faltering as he tried to describe in a matter of two seconds what happened as five bodies piled up near the crease in a net mouth scramble. In the times when the game wasn’t so frenetic, Doc could eloquently dictate his love of the game through poetry and soliloquy. It just seemed he always knew what to say to capture the audience, to say exactly what each hockey guy and girl was feeling. 

I always looked forward to his broadcasts for that reason. I knew I was in for a treat. I knew I was going to be listening to someone who had as much, and probably more, appreciation for the game as I do. I knew that above all else, I would come away entertained, informed, enthused, and perhaps with my heart beating out of my chest, whether I was rooting for a team or not. 

Listening to a hockey broadcast will never be the same again without Doc. We all know that. But we can always appreciate the moments he called and the memories he created. We can certainly hope that he set the bar high for all future broadcasters of this great sport. We can certainly walk away from this season and the many seasons where Doc was on the call and think about how much better it made the game and how much more we appreciated it. Some of those memories live on via YouTube, first some of his best Flyers calls, then some of his best calls on a national stage.

So thank you, Doc. Thank you for inspiring all hockey fans to love the game like you have and to show it the respect and admiration you did every time you were on the call. There will never be another like you.

All the best to the great Doc Emrick in retirement.


To the Man Who Inspired the World of Hockey

Doc and I

“It’s a noble thing to aspire to, we don’t cure people of dyer ills and illnesses, in our line of work, but I think we do something else that’s heartening for not only people who listen but also for us. We take their minds off of their troubles in the world for two and a half to three hours and if their fans, they focus an awful lot of their enjoyment in life on following their team and their athletes and so we’re not the players, we’re not that important, it’s between the fans and the players. And there is responsibility there that enables us to treat it like a profession rather than like a hobby.” – Mike “Doc” Emrick

Mike Emrick has been broadcasting hockey for nearly 50 years. His incredible, and astonishing career has sadly come to an end, but more importantly how did a man from La Fontaine, Indiana mostly known for Basketball, get to broadcast Hockey for that long? Here is his how he became a broadcaster in the NHL.

The man known by everybody as “Doc” saw his first hockey game as a junior high school student at Fort Wayne, Indiana on Dec. 10, 1960 and it took 13 years before he actually was a hockey broadcaster. It took him a while as he sent out tape after tape. He was in graduate school attending Miami University and finished with a Master’s Degree, but didn’t have a job. He took a teaching job at a small college called Geneva. After his first year, he realized he had some spare time in addition to teach classes so he went to the editor of the Beaver County Times and volunteered to cover the 1970-71 Pittsburgh Penguins, who were only 35 miles away, in exchange for a free media pass. That got him inside the locker room to work and learn more about how the game of hockey was broadcast.

Two years later, Emrick sent out more tapes of himself broadcasting while sitting in the corner of an arena, despite never having a chance to broadcast anybody. He thought to himself that it wouldn’t work out so well, therefore he figured he would get an advanced degree that would enable him to teach at a college for the rest of his life. Both Bowling Green, and Michigan offered him assistantships where he could teach classes, and study for the doctorate. The deciding factor was that Bowling Green had a program where they did the home hockey games on radio, and a staff member of the station did the 1st and 3rd periods, while a student announced the 2nd period. The previous student who broadcasted the 2nd periods had graduated so they gave Doc the chance to broadcast every 2nd period of the hockey games in addition to teaching the two classes, and advance study of this degree.

Finally, in 1973, Emrick was finishing his course work, and sent out tapes one more time; this time radio stations in Port, Michigan called and said “why don’t we come up and talk about it for $160 a week?” After that, he was a professional.

Seven years later, he would call his first career NHL game between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Penguins. It was on the home paid cable system called Prism, which fans paid a monthly fee for to get the Philadelphia Phillies, the Philadelphia 76ers, and the Flyers home games. He was the home announcer as well as the TV producer for half of the road games. Hall-of-Fame announcer Gene Hart was the Flyers announcer on radio when they had home cable games and on television when the team traveled.

Emrick spent his time in Philadelphia from 1980-1983, and 1988-1993, he was also known for his incredible work with the New Jersey Devils from 1983-1986, and 1993-2011 before sticking with NBC Sports for the remainder of his career. According to NBC Sports, Emrick had called almost 4,000 professional and Olympic hockey games, including a remarkable 22 Stanley Cup Finals.

Not only is Doc an eight time Emmy award winner, he is the only broadcaster to be in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, along with another amazing feat of being the only broadcaster to be in both the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame and the Hockey Hall of Fame. The 74-year-old legend is also in seven hall of fames, something that is as rare as it gets.

All in all, to the man who inspired the world of hockey, you have been the perfect role model for an aspiring broadcaster; young or old, an incredible person, and even better friend. I have been so grateful for the opportunities in life to not only meet you, but interview you, and talk hockey. Thank you for everything you’ve done for not only myself, but for the sport of hockey, and the world of broadcasting. The sports world will NEVER be the same without your famous calls. I will sorely miss your “OFF THE POST WITH THE SHOT!” And many more. I still remember to this day my first interview with you in 2014 while I was a freshman in college and I had asked you the question “How much longer are you looking to do play by play for NBC, hockey and the NHL in general and what do you think you’ll be doing afterwards?"

You had thought about it for a second and gave me an answer only the great Doc Emrick would give:

"I don’t know… I don’t think I’m one of those guys who will want to go into work if I’m not happy with what I’m doing. I don’t know when that day is going to come. Normally with people in a performance business like this and you can compare it to athletes as well; either they aren’t satisfied with their work, their boss isn’t satisfied with their work, or both and that time the invitation is usually given to find something else. But you always like to think that you can call that day yourself. I’m still satisfied and my bosses are with the work that I’m doing, but if that day comes because they have been very fair with me in terms of my work load as well as paying me, you know barring anything that collapses in the economic world, Joyce and I will be fine. It’s just that she encourages me to work for as long as I enjoy it and I still do. And as long as my bosses enjoy what they’re hearing, then I’m just going to keep on."

Enjoy retirement, and keep on Doc...


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