A childhood dream becomes reality Friday for Mike "Doc" Emrick when he gets to share the radio booth with legendary broadcaster and mentor Bob Chase to call an ECHL contest between the hometown Fort Wayne Komets and the Evansville IceMen at 8 p.m. ET.
Chase, who on Oct. 15 was honored with the Lester Patrick Trophy for his incredible service to hockey in the United States, has been the play-by-play voice of the Komets the last six decades. Emrick, 66, is in his 40th season as a professional hockey broadcaster and currently the lead announcer for the NHL on NBC.
Emrick grew up in La Fontaine, Ind., listening to Chase, now 86. Emrick is the first to admit his Hall of Fame broadcasting career might not have gotten on track, in fact, if it hadn't been for the assistance of Chase. He credits him with the inspiration needed to enter the field of hockey broadcasting.
"When you're in college and you want to meet a celebrity, you come up with the idea of doing a term paper," Emrick told NHL.com. "You call them up and you say, 'I'm doing a term paper on sports broadcasting, would you have 10 minutes to talk to me?' And, of course, [Bob Chase] did."
Emrick met his idol during his junior year at Manchester College while working on a paper about sports broadcasting. Chase would certainly leave a lasting impression that day.
"I went over to the studio in Fort Wayne and he gave me some of his time and actually dubbed off one of the goal calls that I really thought was terrific," Emrick said. "And then, lo and behold, I end up in the [International Hockey League] working in the same facility as the guy who was broadcasting the first game I ever saw in 1960."
The IHL contest Emrick was referring to was between the Komets and Muskegon Zephyrs. From that moment on, his visions of becoming a baseball broadcaster were forever changed.
"It was December 10, 1960," Emrick said. "I had wanted to be a baseball announcer until that night. When I got out of that place, things were different."
The game will be broadcast on WOWO AM 1190 and FM 92.3, and online at www.komets.com.
"It's sort of like 'Field of Dreams,' though not with father and son," Emrick told The News-Sentinel of Fort Wayne. "It's more of an icon and the guy who grew up listening to him. We have to be careful to translate that fun so the audience enjoys it, too."
Emrick, who in 2004 was also a recipient of the Lester Patrick Trophy, will be joining Chase and color man Robbie Irons for the broadcast. According to The News-Sentinel, Emrick and Chase did work a broadcast together in 2000, but never from the same booth while the game was going on.
"I don't know what my obligations will be. It may just be spontaneous and that's fine," Emrick said. "Whatever it is will be fun for me. I'm not driving the bus -- I'm just sitting behind the driver."
Chase is certainly looking forward to the broadcast. He can still recall a young Emrick looking for broadcasting advice when he was just 14 years old.
"He'd come in to the Coliseum, bring his little hand-held recorder and go up in the corner of the press box where I worked," Chase recalled. "I told him that whatever he saw, to talk about it in his vocabulary and with his vernacular. Be yourself, and if it came out the way he liked, listen to it.
"You could still describe in a word picture what's going on so people will listen, and that's what you want," he continued. "The minute you try to be someone you're not, you're never going to be able to live with it because you're always pretending. But Michael is Michael ... he's one hell of a kid."
Fans should expect one heck of a broadcast.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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