Happy retirement wishes go out to Mike "Doc"Emrick; not only one of the greatest hockey (and multi-sport) broadcasters of all-time and a trailblazer for Americans at the national and international levels, but one of the nicest human beings you can ever hope to meet.
There has been a loss of human interaction in our small world of hockey; an environment in which an official who dares say more than a passing hello to a media member (if you know each other at all) is treated like he's treading on forbidden turf. It seems like eons since officials were allowed to speak for ourselves, had our names on the back of our jerseys and, gasp, get to know reporters and broadcasters on a first-name basis.
I always enjoyed watching Doc on TV, both before and after my retirement from officiating. He cut his teeth broadcasting minor league hockey and I spent the majority of playing days in the minor leagues and the World Hockey Association with only a relatively brief stay in the NHL. So there were always great stories to swap and lots of friends in common. One of my greatest post-career thrills came when Doc congratulated me on the air for my US Hockey Hall of Fame induction and mentioned that I'd recently written a book. I still owe him a copy.
Doc is legendary for his knowledge of hockey history but also for his preparation and research. The vast majority of play-by-play broadcasters and color commentators lack more than rudimentary knowledge of the Rule Book and don't really have much appreciation for the nuances of officiating. One of the things I always respected about Mike Emrick as a broadcaster is that, if he didn't know the Rule, he'd look it up and report it to his audience. If he misstated the applicable rule, he'd correct it on the air as soon as possible.
When Doc had a chance to converse with officials, back when that was allowed, he'd ask questions. He WANTED to get a look at the game through your eyes; wanted to know more about the particulars of being an official. On the air, he always put forth his appreciation for the difficulty of the job that officials do, and his respect for their professionalism, humanity and knowledge.
Believe me, not every broadcaster does that. It was noticed and appreciated by my officiating brethren and by myself. The respect and admiration was -- and still is -- mutual.
Since Doc, as the Maine Mariners' play-by-play voice, was in the house to witness a few of the more memorable moments from my playing days when Bingo or the Firebirds would go up against the Mariners, he shared some of those anecdotes over the years; such as the time I fought multiple Mariners at once (I didn't fare so well) or the time I went in to forecheck and jumped over the net like a hurdler.The Indiana native and Bowling Green University grad also remembered well my time with the Cincinnati Stingers and showed one of our old team pictures on the air one night a few seasons ago.
I always got a chuckle when my name would pop up from time to time, long after my retirement, on one of Mike's broadcasts; whether it was a story from my playing days, a reference to a game I'd reffed years ago (often with details I'd long forgotten) or a reference to Binghamton or a long-ago night in Maine or Quebec. It made me feel special to be remembered in those ways.
Doc got the chance to retire when HE chose to; in his own time, and when he felt the time was ready. He did a great job this year in the Stanley Cup Final, which was no surprise, but a reminder of his greatness.
Mike Emrick; Hall of Fame broadcaster, Hall of Fame human being. Enjoy your retirement!
A 2018 inductee into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, Paul Stewart holds the distinction of being the first U.S.-born citizen to make it to the NHL as both a player and referee. On March 15, 2003, he became the first American-born referee to officiate in 1,000 NHL games.
Visit Paul's official websites, YaWannaGo.com and Officiating by Stewart