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For Emrick, game prep is in the cards

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils
Other info that Emrick keeps handy during games:

• The roster of the 1995 Calder Cup champion Albany River Rats. “Even 10 years ago, almost all of these guys were still playing hockey somewhere.”
• The first published list of NHL salaries. “Look at Joe Sakic with Quebec: $84,000. And if he didn’t make the team, he got $25,200 to play in Halifax in the American League.”
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but it takes a Hall-of-Famer to develop a tool that has been borrowed by his colleagues across the industry.

On the morning of a Devils game, longtime broadcaster Mike “Doc” Emrick can be seen carefully filling out one of the 8 1/2” x 11” manila scorecards that will take him from morning skate all the way through that night’s broadcast.

It has been years since Emrick designed the card, which he copyrighted nearly three decades ago. He conceived it during the pre-digital era as a way of structuring stats and team data into a format that was easy to access on the air.

Emrick, winner of the Hockey Hall of Fame's 2008 Foster Hewitt Award, prints 100 of them each season at a shop near his home in Port Huron, Mich. The grid color varies from one year to the next, and Emrick uses brightly-colored card stock for his national games with NBC and Versus.

“A lot of guys have copied it, and I don’t care,” Emrick says. “A lot of young guys I know I see use it in the minors. I’m more flattered by it than anything else. But the whole idea was to condense the game notes.”

Each broadcaster has his own method. Emrick has established one that works for him.

“I know (longtime Whalers/Hurricanes broadcaster) Chuck Kaiton wrote his in those thin reporter’s notebooks, and he had a stenographer’s book at one time, and he has them in his office in Carolina all the way back to ‘79,” he explains. “He can go back and look there and it’s just a line-by-line stenographer’s book; it’s not printed or anything. That’s what he’s always used.

“Everyone has their own system. Some use cards, some use loose-leaf three-ring binders. Some have spiral-bound stuff that they have done themselves. I just found the cards were easier to flip over instead of turning pages.”

A closer look at an Emrick scorecard. (Click to download PDF)
Though the Internet makes it convenient to find up-to-the-minute player info, Emrick finds a laptop to be impractical for the cramped broadcast booths in some of the League's older arenas.

“It’s all the stuff that’s actually in the notes, but it’s faster to go through this process,” he says. “The card itself takes maybe an hour to fill out, but it’s done at different times. After the morning skate, I’ll have at least a rough idea on what the lines will be, which means I can fill part in.”

On a perfect day, he can spend up to eight hours combing through information on both teams, and writing them in using red, black and blue Pilot G2 0.7 mm pens.

“If I were in my 40s, I’d probably have shifted all this and, somehow or other, figured out how to print these cards out,” he says. “But it helps me to write things down, because it puts it in my mind that I wrote it down that day and I’d like to use it that night.”

No reason to change now, with Emrick in his 17th season, 20th overall, with the Devils. The five-time New York region Emmy award winner will work his sixth Winter Olympics in February.

“I get to talk to Fordham and, occasionally, B.U. kids all the time,” he explains. “People come in and say, ‘You won’t make much money in your first job, it’s highly competitive and it’s back-breaking and all of that.’ It is. But it’s still a fun way to make a living.

“There’s no rule that you have to hate your job," he continues. "You’re going back tonight and you’re going to study Western Civilization or Kinesiology, and I’m going to read up on the Bruins and the Devils. It’s not that I’ve got a luckier situation than you, but I’ve done what you’ve done before and I’ve done this – and I’ll take this.”

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