While Martin Brodeur
guards the Devils’ net Tuesday in the hopes of nailing down his record-setting 552nd win, Mike “Doc” Emrick could be broadcasting another magic milestone in Devils’ history.
Rather than go into the contest with a scripted line or two, the longtime Devils television announcer plans on delivering the words that sum it up best, whatever the outcome.
“You have a rough idea, but in terms of actually drafting something, you kind of frame that as the evening goes on,” Emrick said. “You have a guideline, but you don’t have anything written in stone. It’s not like Al Michaels, because sometimes those things seem forced if they don’t really fit the way the game has gone.”
Michaels’ “Do you believe in miracles?” call for Team USA’s win over the Russians at the 1980 Lake Placid Games is perhaps the most well-known in hockey history.
To Emrick, it was perfect.
“That’s the kind of perfection that none of us are ever going to hit again because the circumstance was right, the world conditions were right, and everything fit that particular thing that he came up with,” Emrick said. “Do I have something like that? No, but I’ve got some directions I can go based on how I think the evening is going.”
Now in his 16th consecutive season, 19th overall, behind the Devils' mic, Emrick is a five-time New York-region Emmy Award winner and last year received the Hockey Hall of Fame’s Foster Hewitt Award for outstanding contributions to hockey broadcasting.
Emrick’s obligations to NBC’s Game of the Week between the Flyers and Rangers Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden ruled him out for Brodeur’s 551st win Saturday night at Montreal. That schedule had been determined months ago, back when no one could have known an elbow injury would force Brodeur to the shelf for 50 games.
“It would’ve been nice to do, but it was no real surprise because I knew all along from October when they announce their dates that I would not be able to commit to that game (in Montreal),” Emrick said.
Emrick has seen as many Devils games as nearly anyone over the last decade and a half, and it’d be hard to argue with his list of the best he’s covered: the Stanley Cup-clincher against Detroit in 1995; the four-overtime playoff marathon against Buffalo in Game 6 of the 1994 Eastern quarterfinals; and the final game of the 2006 regular season, when Jamie Langenbrunner’s winner versus Montreal sent the Devils to their 11th straight triumph and an Atlantic Division title.
Brodeur’s shot at becoming the NHL’s winningest goalie would add one more.
“It would be right up there with those,” Emrick said.
But first, one more win. Brodeur has said his bid for 552 is a product of an organization that trusts him enough to play night in, night out. That Brodeur is this close to the mark, Emrick believes, is a tribute to Brodeur’s talents coupled with the high expectations established by team President/CEO/General Manager Lou Lamoriello.
It's a combination that has given Devils fans a whole lot to cheer about over the years.
“The standard that Lou set as soon as he came in, and because of John MacLean’s goal on the last night in ‘88, they reached the playoffs, which was the start of something new,” Emrick said. “But the fact that the standard was set high in terms of how they would draft, what type of player they wanted, how they would play the game, and then Marty came along with talent that’s immeasurable in goal. Others have come along and contributed to championships, but those have been two common grounds through almost all of this. Lou started this, and Marty came along in ‘93.
I think those are the two most significant people in the history of the franchise: one in an office and one in the crease.”
Now Emrick waits for that history to further unfold.
The kid that the Devils took with the 20th overall pick in 1990 can put a definitive stamp on hockey's record books with one more ‘W.' Up in the booth, Emrick looks to shape another special moment via the airwaves.