Mike “Doc” Emrick, who retired Monday, has impacted everyone he has met during a 47-year career broadcasting professional hockey. Everyone has a story about the kindness, professionalism and enthusiasm of the 74-year-old with the best vocabulary in the business.
We asked nine of our writers for a favorite Doc memory. Here are their responses:
Amalie Benjamin, staff writer
I spent the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs waddling around TD Garden looking as if I was about to give birth at any moment. After the Boston Bruins made a somewhat surprising run to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, my son was born six days later. A few days later, I got a congratulatory text from Doc, asking for my address to send a card. But what arrived wasn’t just a card; Doc had taken my address and researched a children’s boutique in the town where I live and had gotten us a gift. When I finally made it to the store, the owner told me she had been waiting for me to come in all summer. Doc had called the store personally to get the gift card, calling back multiple times to make sure the details were perfect. She was so tickled at Doc’s kindness and the interaction that she remembered it and him for months. It was something that goes to the essence of who Doc is: kind, considerate, caring and above-and-beyond in all he does, whether that be his preparation for his work, his calls on air or his thoughtfulness to his friends and the people with whom he works.
Nick Cotsonika, columnist
If only we had the words to describe Doc the way he had the words to describe hockey. Hockey is a game of action, and verbs are the action words. Doc used verbs no other hockey broadcaster did — waffle boarded, ladled, skittered, pitchforked, knifed — and he used them with an endearing energy and inflection all his own. Listening to Doc call a game was like watching Pavel Datsyuk play the game: full of skill, creativity and surprises. You paid attention because you never knew what might come next. Doc was also a graceful storyteller and essayist, and a warm, humble man on and off camera. All the stories you hear are true. The morning after a big NHL game or event, I’d often bump into Doc at the airport because we both lived in the Detroit area and were heading home. No matter the early hour, he’d smile, say hello, share a story. The end of his retirement announcement was perfect. “I leave you with sincere thanks, your hockey friend, Doc.” To so many people, whether they knew him or not, that’s what he was, their hockey friend, as familiar as his one-syllable nickname. Thank you, Doc.
Tom Gulitti, staff writer
While covering the New Jersey Devils in a past career, I spent a lot of time with Doc, who was the television voice of the Devils for MSG Network until 2011. The broadcasters did not travel with the Devils on their charter, so I would often fly on the same commercial flight. In January 2010, the Devils played back-to-back games at the Ottawa Senators and Buffalo Sabres and the best option then to get from Ottawa to Buffalo was to fly to Toronto and drive. Doc asked if I wanted some company on the drive and his presence made the trip fly by. At one point, I asked a scheduling question about the Vancouver Olympics and Doc, who would call the hockey tournament, didn’t know the answer. He unclicked his seatbelt and began climbing over his seat to reach his briefcase. Watching Doc precariously balanced while speeding down the Queen Elizabeth Way, I realized I’d be responsible if anything happened to this broadcasting legend and possibly the nicest person on the planet. I slowed down and tried to keep my eyes on the road while urging Doc to return to his seat. Doc insisted on retrieving the paper with the information he needed. I was relieved when he was safely clicked back into his seatbelt and careful the remainder of the drive not to ask any questions that might cause him to go on another excursion. Knowing Doc, he’d always want to find out the answer.
Adam Kimelman, deputy managing editor
My favorite memory of Doc has nothing to do with hockey and everything to do with the kind of person he is. I only know Doc from a quick hello passing him between periods of games, but his voice is obvious to anyone who’s spent a minute or two watching hockey. The day before the 2017 NHL Draft, I’m at Wrigley Field covering the availability involving top prospects. After writing my story in the press box, I decide to go exploring when I hear that voice. I follow it up a small flight of stairs into a small booth and there’s Doc and another person chatting. Doc invites me in and introduces me to his friend. After a few minutes of small talk, Doc says to his friend to let me run things. The guy moves away from this ancient device, looks out at the field and says hit this button and this button. I look out to centerfield and see the scoreboard change. It was unreal. And that’s how, because of Doc Emrick, who I barely know, I got to run the scoreboard at Wrigley Field for half an inning one June afternoon.
Mike G. Morreale, staff writer
I have had several in-person or telephone chats with Doc Emrick that were incredibly educational and endearing. On top of that, he always took time out of his busy schedule to talk, not only about hockey, but about life and family, whenever we crossed paths. I respected his work, his enthusiasm, his love for the game and an ability to somehow make you feel like the most important person in the world. He did that when I approached him for an autograph as a young hockey fan in the early 1980s and again when I asked for a picture with him in February 2012. An answer to my question on why he loved hockey so much is one I’ll never forget: “I marvel at guys who can use unnatural extensions — their stick off their arm and skates off their feet. To be able to do it at 30 mph, shoot at 100 mph and collide with people inside a walled-in area. The fact there are occasional outbreaks of temper proves that morality still works every once in a while. [A love for hockey is] almost like trying to explain why you love your wife so much. It’s one of those things that’s not terribly cerebral. It’s really a part of the heart.”
Tracey Myers, staff writer
I was working with Doc on a Hockey Fights Cancer story about two years ago when I told him some bad news I had recently received: My aunt was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. It was just one of those days I was feeling lousy and needed to vent to someone who I knew would understand, given Doc’s own battle with prostate cancer in the early 1990s. Doc lit candles for Eddie Olczyk when Eddie was fighting stage 3 colon cancer, and he did the same thing for my aunt. Whenever he was in Chicago for a game, Doc sent me a picture of the candles he had lit at whichever church he visited on that trip, and he never failed to ask me how my aunt was doing (she’s still fighting, by the way). There are folks in this business whose on-air charm disappears as soon as the red light goes dark. Doc is not one of those people. He’s as genuine off camera as he is on. I know I could text him any time, but I’ll miss seeing him at the rink and I’ll miss hearing his enthusiastic game calls.
Dan Rosen, senior writer
My favorite memory among the dozens I have is from my previous job as a local sportswriter covering high school hockey in New Jersey. This was 2005, probably. It was a big winter night of hockey at the Ice Vault in Wayne, and I was covering a few games. I walk into the rink and right there, standing by himself, was Doc. If memory serves, and I know Doc remembers, he was there to watch the game between Northern Highlands and Ramsey. He knew the family of a player in the game and he wanted to watch. It wasn’t an official appearance. It was just Doc going to a rink to see a kid he knows. I was shocked to see him but shouldn’t have been. He loves hockey. He loves people. He’s friendly and genuine. He stood by the glass and watched closely. I wonder if he was calling the game in his head. We chatted later about the high school hockey scene. He wanted to know who was good and why. He picked my brain, as strange as that seems. Any time I see Doc at the rink, we joke around, and sometimes we reflect on that night in Wayne. I’ll never forget it. And, because he’s Doc, he won’t either. What a legend.
Dave Stubbs, columnist
Doc Emrick has a deep, abiding love of hockey history and the many players and rivalries on which the modern-day NHL is built. In December 2015, Doc and I sat in the stands of Montreal’s Bell Centre for a chat, primarily to discuss the 2016 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic between the Boston Bruins and visiting Montreal Canadiens. Very quickly, we detoured into the 1990s. “I’m doing the New Jersey Devils telecast in Montreal with (former Bruins center) Peter McNab,” he said. “We’re walking up Ste. Catherine St. to get to the Montreal Forum for the morning skate. Peter starts telling me Bruins-Canadiens stories and every one of them is an absolute disaster.” We finally get to the Forum and Canadiens legend Larry Robinson, one of the Devils’ assistant coaches, is in the dressing room. I tell Larry, “I have just spent 25 awful minutes listening to Bruins-Canadiens stories,” and Larry gets a big smile on his face and says, “They’re great, aren’t they?” Any time through the years that Doc and I have connected, we’ve dug into our hockey history. Viewers have been blessed by this broadcast icon’s encyclopedic knowledge and his storytelling, which have made the action he’s called much more an event than merely a game.
Mike Zeisberger, staff writer
There are certain voices that do more than describe the game. They ARE the game. You can include Doc Emrick on that very special list. Growing up in Toronto, broadcasting pioneer Foster Hewitt was before my time, so the sounds of the game’s narrative belonged to the likes of the legendary Danny Gallivan and Bob Cole. Add Doc Emrick to that list. For more than four decades his love of the game has come through to anyone that listens. He’s just as much a Hall of Fame person as he is a broadcaster. When my father passed away in 2018, Doc was one of the first people to reach out. I’ll never forget. Maybe that’s why I let him call me Michael instead of Mike or Zize. My late mom was the only other who regularly called me Michael. That’s the respect I have for Doc. In either 2008 or 2009 in Pittsburgh, Doc and I were talking with Cole and Penguins broadcaster Mike Lange in the press box. All three have been honored by the Hockey Hall of Fame. When we were done, Doc turned to me and said, “Man, those two guys are legends.” So are you, my friend.