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Atlantic: Beloved Emrick deserved his big night

by Adam Kimelman /
Mike "Doc" Emrick got to be a Hall of Fame broadcaster because of his love and respect for the game and the men that play it. That's why it was so fitting that when the Devils honored him Friday night, his thank-you speech was short.

"I hope you won't think this short thank you is any less sincere than a real long one," Emrick said prior to the Devils' win against the Penguins. "My dad said if you're around somebody that really wants to work, don't get in their way -- let them work. I'm around two teams that really want to get to work and I'm anxious to see them do it."

With that, Emrick said a few more words, waved to the crowd and went right to his seat in the broadcast booth.

The Devils' booth was his home from 1983-86, and he returned in 1993 after a stint as a Flyers broadcaster. This is Emrick's 29th season calling NHL games and his 36th in professional hockey, a career that started with Port Huron Flags of the International Hockey League in 1973.

Emrick has called 10 Stanley Cup Finals and seven All-Star Games, and he was the lead announcer for men's and women's hockey at the 2006 Olympics. Emrick is in his fourth season as the U.S. voice of hockey as the lead broadcaster for Versus and NBC.

He reached the pinnacle of his career in November, when he received the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award from the Hockey Hall of Fame for his outstanding contributions as a hockey broadcaster.

As good a broadcaster as Emrick is, his friends and colleagues consider him just as good a person.

"He's a unique individual, as humble as they come, as talented as they come, as professional as they come, and most deserving," said Devils President and General Manager Lou Lamoriello. "He is part of our family and always will be."

"It's well deserved," said Devils coach Brent Sutter. "He's a great man. I've been watching him on TV and the amount of years he's been doing it, he's in the elite level. And he's a very exciting guy. I know guys back home that watch the games and they always talk about him, how exciting he makes every game. It could be the most boring game sitting in the building, but he's going to make it as exciting as possible. He's a special person."

Stan Fischler, who has been a part of New York hockey for more than 50 years, said Emrick has created his own style of broadcasting.

"Doc being so literate has created an American style of hockey broadcasting that nobody has really duplicated," said Fischler.

"No one can bring an exciting play to a crescendo like Doc," said Chico Resch, Emrick's partner on Devils telecasts since 1996. "I love the way he does the game. You can say it's old-school, but to me it's the way hockey needs to be broadcast."

Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek presented Emrick with a custom-made vintage microphone flagged with the letters DOC, as well as a crystal etched with an image of his two beloved dogs. He also was given a painting which featured Emrick holding an MSG Plus microphone, a Devils logo and the Foster Hewitt award. He also is seen wearing a Pittsburgh Pirates hat, rewarding his lifelong love of the baseball team.

"It was the great baseball announcer Ernie Harwell who said a man is lucky if God gives him a job to do that he really enjoys, and boy do I ever have one," said Emrick. "I am thankful to the Devils for this night. Jeff Vanderbeek, Lou Lamoriello, coach Brent Sutter, captain Jamie Langenbrunner, and this team, I thank them all for making this such a special night for my family.

"Thank you for honoring our family, thank you for honoring me."

Working vacation -- While the All-Star break was a chance for some players to head for warmer destinations, Rangers center Scott Gomez chose to spend his off-time in Greenburgh, N.Y., home of the club's practice facility.

Teammates were impressed that Gomez, a two-time All-Star and the team's second-leading scorer, chose hard work over time away.

"He stayed back in New York and trained really hard," said goaltender Stephen Valiquette. "I know he came to the rink every day and lifted weights and got on the ice. He was the one guy who used our break to focus on getting stronger for the second half of the year. I know he's going to be outstanding the rest of the way."

Gomez had 1 goal and 2 assists in his first three games after the break.

Old and young -- At their summer rookie development camp, Islanders rookie forward Kyle Okposo, the foundation for the team's youth movement, was asked who had impressed him. He quickly answered Josh Bailey, the club's first pick at the 2008 Entry Draft. Okposo said he liked everything about Bailey's game from their time together on a line in scrimmages.

Fast forward five months, and the pair finally are playing together again, and the results have looked just as good.

Coach Scott Gordon put Bailey between Okposo and Blake Comeau for the first time Thursday, and the result was a 4-0 first-period lead and a 5-4 victory against the Atlanta Thrashers.

Okposo had his first two-goal NHL game, both assisted by Bailey, including the game-winner at 12:39 of the third period. Both goals came on superb passes from in close.

"He knew where I was the whole time," Okposo said after the game. "That's something about him. He's got great vision. He's so composed with that puck. He's really a playmaker."

"They played great," said Gordon. "I'm happy with them. ... It (the winning goal) was a great play. They made a great play, and that's why I put them together. I want to give them the opportunity to show what they can do together."

Scoring sensation -- In 46 games before the All-Star break, Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner had just 8 goals. But in the three games since the mid-winter break ended, he has three straight two-goal games, including a pair of overtime game-winners. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he's the first Devil to score overtime goals in consecutive games when he won games Thursday against the Bruins and Friday against the Penguins.

So where did this scoring outburst come from? Langenbrunner credits conversations with former club massage therapist Juergen Merz, who often used mind relaxation techniques to help players get out of slumps during his time with the team.

"I've been getting phone calls from my buddy Juergie and we talk things through all the time and sometimes it eventually kicks in," he told The (Bergen) Record. "He does a good job of just settling you down ... I have to give a lot of credit to him."

Forsberg not done yet -- Peter Forsberg announced Friday in Sweden that he would not play in the NHL this season, and if his chronically sore ankles and feet allow him to play at all, it will be with his hometown club.

"There won't be any NHL this season, that's totally clear," Forsberg told a Swedish TV station. "If I can play it will be in the (Swedish) Elite Series and MODO."

Forsberg said he doesn't feel great, but at 35, he wants to give playing one more chance.

"I'm still not completely 100 (percent) that I can play, but I am optimistic. The foot feels better than when I went over and played with Colorado last spring, anyway"
-- Peter Forsberg

"I'm still not completely 100 (percent) that I can play, but I am optimistic," he said. "The foot feels better than when I went over and played with Colorado last spring, anyway."

Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren confirmed recently that he had spoken to Forsberg's agent, Don Baizley, to gauge Forsberg's health and his willingness to play in the NHL and in Philadelphia.

While Holmgren won't be able to pencil Forsberg's name into his lineup this season, that won't mean he's giving up on ever putting "Foppa" back in black and orange.

"If he plays in the World Championships with Sweden and plays well," Holmgren told, "then he comes back next year with somebody, assuming he is healthy."

Holmgren said he would like it to be the Flyers, but said, "That's a long ways off, though."

News and notes -- Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar, out since the first preseason game due to a shoulder injury suffered in the club's first preseason game, could make his season debut the last week of February. He had surgery Oct. 2, and was expected to miss 4-6 weeks. Gonchar has been skating with the team, but has not been cleared for contact. ... Penguins forward Matt Cooke had his midseason break extended by two games, due to a suspension for a hit to the head of Carolina's Scott Walker on Jan. 20. Cooke was given an interference penalty, but Walker was knocked out of the game. Cooke was stunned by the decision, one he says he doesn't understand. "I backchecked, tried to finish my check as I always do. The video shows that I'm not skating, there's no lunge at him, my elbows are down, my stick's down, I don't go after his head. But my shoulder hits him in the chin. The League made a ruling, and with the process that there is, that's kind of what I'm left with." ... Erik Reitz, acquired by the Rangers from Minnesota last week for Dan Fritsche, will stay with the big club as a seventh defenseman. The 6-foot-1, 222-pounder had 2 points and 41 penalty minutes in 31 games with the Wild. ... Flyers goalie Martin Biron is an unrestricted free agent, and while the club would like to keep him, both sides admit there's no rush to get a deal done. "Marty is aware of what is going on," General Manager Paul Holmgren told "I talked to his agent (Gilles Lupien). We have parameters where we're at. I don't think from either side there is a sense of rushing into anything." Said Biron, "I told my agent and Homer I didn't want to know anything. I just wanted to play. If they had discussions, conversations or what-not I wasn't going to be notified from it until we were down to the nitty gritty and that's basically what it is." ... Jared Ross, who became the first player born and trained in Alabama to play in the NHL when he debuted for the Flyers on Oct. 11, won fastest skater at AHL all-star skills contest, turning a lap in 14.187 seconds. The next night, at the AHL All-Star game, he had a goal and 6 assists and was named the game's MVP as PlanetUSA beat Canada, 14-11. The 6 assists and 7 points are AHL All-Star Game records. Ross was scoreless with two penalty minutes in five NHL games earlier this season. In 36 AHL games with the Philadelphia Phantoms, Ross has a team-best 19 goals and is tied for the team lead with 41 points. ... Hip surgery has ended a second straight season for Islanders center Mike Sillinger. Sillinger had hip resurfacing surgery last week, 11 months after he had microfracture surgery on the same hip. He was sidelined until the beginning of December, but he played just seven games, and at age 38, this could be the end of his career after 18 seasons with 12 teams.

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