There was a time during the second period of the 2008 NHL Winter Classic when any hot dog or refreshment purchased likely was saturated by the sleet that dropped on Ralph Wilson Stadium and the 70,000-plus in attendance in Orchard Park, N.Y.
It was during that same period when NBC play-by-play man Mike Emrick watched in dismay as his alphabetically ordered string of notes wash away before his very eyes.
Today, the 62-year-old Emrick, perhaps the most renowned NHL broadcaster in the business, can laugh about it.
"It was an awesome thing to behold," Emrick said. "We had to do an on-camera thing live at the time the players were marching in, so we had to turn our backs to the celebration, but we could sneak a peak on the monitor. I remember talking to Ryan Whitney a week after the game and he said while walking down the runway, he heard the pipe band and saw the flames going up and he said to teammate Colby Armstrong behind him in line, 'Look around you, Army, we'll never forget this.' The roar of the 70,000 people, plus all the sound from the pipes, the fire and all of those other touches, really made it a grand start to an event."
But as good as the opening ceremony was, it took a back seat to the hockey that was displayed that afternoon.
"I spoke to each of the four officials a few weeks later when it was all over to ask their memories of it all," Emrick said. "One of them told me, 'You know, that whole afternoon, even with the occasional delays and resurfacing, not one player ever complained.' They just played on because that was a part of it."
Despite the fact a heavy snowfall in overtime made it challenging for the broadcast team last year, Emrick knows it also set the tone for a dramatic finish.
"What made the play more appealing was the weather, but the fact the guys played at a high level and played terrific hockey through the elements was even more incredible," Emrick said. "(Referee) Marc Joannette was the checkered-line referee for the shootout and Don Van Massenhoven was at the goal line. At one point, Marc said, 'I was watching (Sidney) Crosby stick handle (on the final shot of the shootout) and in addition to pushing the puck, he was pushing a whole lot of snow, as well.' And I thought, 'Why not?' That's probably the way it was in (Crosby's hometown of) Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, or the way it was in East Lansing (Mich.), when (Sabres goalie) Ryan Miller played outdoors."Contact Mike Morreale at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Author: Mike G. Morreale | NHL.com Staff Writer