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Emrick retires from hockey broadcasting after 47 years

Play-by-play voice of 'NHL on NBC' called more than 3,700 games, including Cup Final 22 times @NHLdotcom

Mike "Doc" Emrick retired Monday after a 47-year career broadcasting professional hockey, including the last 15 as the lead play-by-play voice for the "NHL on NBC."

The 74-year-old will continue to contribute to NBC Sports by occasionally writing and narrating video essays for its NHL coverage.

"Partway through the playoffs, which NBC graciously allowed me to do from home, I became very aware not only of how fortunate I was to continue to be safe here at home, but aside from my (prostate) cancer scare in 1991, to have been healthy these past 50 years since reporting on the NHL for the first time," Emrick said. "Reflecting back on that time, I'm still OK.

"It seemed like it was time. I guess 50 (years) was a round number in covering the League, and it was just also a time that in your mid-70s you realize that you have had a very healthy, long run except for the cancer scare and you are looking outside and seeing this to be the autumn of your years and a time when, as you are healthy, that you still want to do that. So there's certainly still the love for hockey that I always had, but this is the time for turning to other things, including a commitment to helping people with the animals. There's no backstory. There's no other thing. This is it."

Watch: Youtube Video

Emrick worked the Stanley Cup Final 22 times, 45 Stanley Cup Playoffs/Final Game 7s, six Olympics, 14 NHL All-Star Games and 19 NHL Winter Classics and Stadium Series games, including the inaugural Winter Classic between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo on Jan. 1, 2008. Emrick estimated he's called more than 3,750 professional and Olympic hockey games.

"The risk one takes in saying something about Doc Emrick is that you know he could have worded it better himself, on the spur of the moment, with 20,000 fans screaming in his ears (or up to 105,000 in the rain, snow and/or bitter cold), to a national broadcast audience relying on him to get it just right," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. "In the 103-year history of the National Hockey League, nobody has ever conveyed the sights, sounds, passion, excitement, thrills and intricacies of our game better.

"His command of the English language under the most frenetic conditions defies comprehension. His unabashed wonder at the skill and courage of hockey players -- as genuine in his call of Game 6 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final as in his first day doing hockey play-by-play in 1971 -- always reminded listeners and viewers of the marvel he was describing. His reverence for hockey's traditions and history, coupled with his devilish sense of humor, conveyed that, while he knew he was calling a game, it was always much more to him than just a game.

"For obvious reasons, hockey is the most challenging sport for a play-by-play man. Doc somehow didn't just master it, he transformed it into art. The game, of course, goes on. But it never again will sound quite the same."

Emrick won the Foster Hewitt Award, presented by the Hockey Hall of Fame for outstanding contributions to hockey broadcasting, in 2008. He became the first broadcaster inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 2011, the year he won the first of eight Sports Emmy Awards for Outstanding Sports Personality -- Play-by-Play, including seven straight from 2014-20.

"I will only quote what my mentor, Bob Chase, used to say to me: 'Be yourself,'" Emrick said. "And I think that's what I've tried to be.

"... One of the things that I've learned over time is, I've never done a perfect game out of all of those 3,700 or whatever it is. And I realized after a while that I was never going to do that. So I had to just relax and realize, as Bob Chase said, 'Be yourself,' and myself was not a perfect individual. So I just enjoyed the fact that I was given a free seat, a good seat, and I got to work with some of the best athletes in the world and then twice a month I got something in the mail, and it was really good."

Video: Doc Emrick joins NHL Tonight to discuss retirement

Emrick called the 2020 postseason, beginning with the Stanley Cup Qualifiers, from a custom-made studio in his home outside of Detroit. His final broadcast was Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final when the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Dallas Stars 2-0 to win the Cup for the first time since 2004, calling the game with longtime partner Eddie Olczyk.

"I thank you; we all thank you, Doc, for your passion, your love for the game, your appreciation and love for people," Olczyk said. "And I thank you for trusting me 14 years ago when (executive producer and president, production, NBC and NBCSN) Sam [Flood] gave me the opportunity to sit next to you for the very first time on NBC.

"We've had many discussion over the years, which I will take with me the rest of my life and know that you are very much at peace, Doc. …The appreciation that you have given to our game, Doc, is that we're all much better for having you in our lives and we will miss you. It is a sad day, but we are so happy for you and for (wife) Joyce, and I couldn't be more proud to have been your partner for 14 years. I'm going to miss you, but I know we're going to be in contact and I thank you very much for the trust that you have given me and the support that you have given me and helped me become the broadcaster and person I've become."

The nickname "Doc" came from Emrick's time at Bowling Green State University, where he called hockey from 1971-73 and graduated with a doctorate in broadcast communications.

Video: A Small Snippet of 'Doc' Emrick's Legendary Career

Emrick's professional career began when he was hired to do radio play-by-play and public relations for Port Huron of the International Hockey League in 1973. He held the same two positions for Maine of the American Hockey League from 1977-80. He covered the Philadelphia Flyers as a spot announcer for home broadcasts and in-studio analyst from 1980-83 before being promoted to lead play-by-play announcer in 1988. He also was the primary television voice of the New Jersey Devils for 21 seasons, first from 1983-86 and returning for a second stint in 1993, which lasted until announcing July 21, 2011, that he would work exclusively for NBC Sports.

"Mike 'Doc' Emrick is a national treasure -- simply put, he's one of the best ever to put on a headset in the history of sports broadcasting," Flood said. "Doc's love of the game and his unmatched style produced true artistry, engaged new fans and quickly became the soundtrack of hockey. He lived at the rink on game days, spending countless hours at morning skates to find one more story to seamlessly weave into his frenetic, yet lyrical, call of a game."

Emrick's book, "Off Mike: How a Kid from Basketball-Crazy Indiana Became America's NHL Voice," co-authored with Kevin Allen, will be released Tuesday.

"It's just an overall book of experiences about hockey, minor leagues and networks, and all 40 years in the NHL," Emrick said June 23. "It's all pulled together with some life experiences and some stories about dogs, some about doing some brief NFL work, and Bob Costas and I doing a baseball game in Pittsburgh. It's just oddball things. Hopefully it'll be entertaining."

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