A huge bombshell was dropped on us this Monday Morning. The legendary NBC play by play man Mike “Doc” Emrick is calling it a career and is stepping down from announcing hockey. Doc has been the voice of US hockey for the past 15 years and has legions of fans from all over. His vocabulary was unique and his passion for the sport was transparent to anybody who tuned into NBC’s coverage. From all accounts he is a better person than a broadcaster and his broadcasting work speaks for itself.
Play by play for sports is like music. It is very subjective. While Doc was not my absolute favorite broadcaster it is easy to see why he was to many. You can still acknowledge the greatness of a music artist even if their music didn’t suit your ear. This is the case for me and Mr. Emrick. He deserves all the accolades he is receiving today.
Unfortunately, I sought out his greatness less and less over the years and it had absolutely nothing to do with him. It had everything to do with the “talent” they surrounded him with. NBC’s hockey broadcast is a terrible product and Doc’s talents weren’t enough to keep me around if I had other options. It is a real shame they couldn’t surround him with better on-air talent. Instead we got the same tired trio year after year. It wasn’t a modern broadcast. It was stuck in a time where the listeners were treated like they didn’t know anything about the sport. Again, not Emrick’s fault in the least bit. He did everything he could to elevate the product and did. I wish things had played out differently.
I also can't help but think the pandemic cost him a few more years of doing the job he clearly loved. The uncertainty and risk probably swung the risk/reward to being not worth it.
As far as replacing Doc?
Kenny Albert would be the likely successor to Emrick as NBC's lead Stanley Cup broadcaster. Stay tuned. https://t.co/68VcFSKrbi
No offense to Mr. Albert, but that isn’t the correct choice. The correct choice would be John Forslund. He carries the same passion and knowledge of the game Doc did, but presents it in a modernized version. Perhaps NBC can use this moment where there is a changing of the guard at play by play to also hit the refresh button on the other people on broadcast. If they don't Forslund (or whoever takes over) will suffer from the same issues Doc did.
It might not matter who NBC replaces Doc with because the United States television contract is up after this season. While I think NBC will try to retain the rights to hockey it is not a 100% thing. They might not be the main provider. This leads me to my perfect choice for the voice of hockey, Mr. Gary Thorne. If ESPN or whatever other network got the main rights I would love it if Thorne could call at least some hockey. He is my personal favorite and it will be tough for anybody to come along and take over that spot for me. Thorne’s play calling on ESPN was legendary and the soundtrack to many great Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr moments. I know this is a pipedream. Gary is 72 years old and is currently the play by play person for the Baltimore Orioles. The best I can hope for is if ESPN gets some NHL games in the new contract and Thorne can call some of them. I mean c’mon Gary you don’t want to deal with Gleyber Torres anymore do you?
Come back home, Gary. We miss you
Best wishes to Mike Emrick in retirement. Hockey was lucky to have you. Try not to get too down from the Pirates.