Mike "Doc" Emrick isn't just a big fan of the movie "Slap Shot." He's a walking encyclopedia of the classic hockey film that was released 40 years ago Saturday.
Emrick, the voice of the NHL on NBC, can seemingly quote the movie about the fictional Charlestown Chiefs in the rough-and-tumble Federal League at will. In a video for NHL.com produced by NBC, he recited his favorite lines, mostly those of Chiefs manager Joe McGrath, played by Strother Martin.
Emrick estimates he's "only" seen the cult classic film 10 times in its entirety, which, he notes, "compared to a lot of people, isn't that many." But he has watched clips of it on a regular basis.
In fact, one clip was part of the pregame ritual for Emrick and his NBC colleagues, thanks to Sam Flood, executive producer and president of production for NBC Sports and NBCSN. "It was part of our team spirit, let's put it that way," Emrick said.
Video: Slap Shot at 40: Making of
Flood was coordinating producer for NBC Sports in 2005 when the network became the exclusive U.S. broadcast partner of the NHL.
"Sam Flood was the hockey guy at NBC when we first got the rights back in 2005, and was the guy who produced all those important games in the early, first decade or so of having the rights," said Emrick, who will call the 2017 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers at Heinz Field on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVA Sports 2, NHL.TV),
"The minute before we took the air, he would run the scene [with McGrath saying] 'We're losing, they are burying us alive,' and then would cut to the [Chiefs] bus going through the countryside and Maxine Nightingale singing ['Right Back Where We Started From']. And that was sort of our fired-up tape and it was every telecast we did, including the Stanley Cup Final.
"No one else could see it. It was always something to loosen us up if we were too tight before a game. It was always something to give us an appreciation to, 'Hey, we're doing hockey and it's going coast to coast and you know we might be on the Federal Hockey League bus and if we were, that would be OK, because that's hockey, too."
Video: Slap Shot at 40: North American Hockey League
Emrick rode a bus as an announcer in the minor leagues, a job he held when the film was released. He said scenes in the movie featuring bench-clearing brawls and vicious hits aren't as far-fetched as people might think.
"It was right there during my era. It was recognizable," said Emrick, who called minor league games from 1973-80. "It struck me as everything was realistic. The only unrealistic thing is it all happened in one season in the movie. Over the span of maybe 20 years of old lore and some of things I witnessed myself in the International League and the old Eastern League, those things happened."
Emrick recalled calling an International Hockey League melee in 1975 or '76 in Port Huron, Michigan, that got so wild, he lost sight of four players.
"This was Port Huron, Michigan vs. Fort Wayne, Indiana. The penalty boxes were totally open on all sides. One of Fort Wayne's players took a minor penalty, and as he was skating toward the penalty box, he said something to the [Port Huron] bench that apparently they really liked, so without going on the ice, a couple guys just stepped over into the penalty box from the bench."
Video: Slap Shot at 40: 1970's NAHL
Emrick said the penalty box got so crowded, two sets of players went through a set of double doors into the lobby of the arena near the ticket kiosk. "The doors closed behind them and those guys disappeared," Emrick said.
"The next day I was talking to the man who owned the ice cream parlor across the street. He had the game on [the radio], and so he came outside the ice cream parlor to look across the street to see if he could watch the fight. And he said over the 7th Street Bridge to his left came one police car, down [another street] came another police car and they had the flashers going, and the sirens going. But they weren't coming down to break up the fight; they were hurrying to get there to see if they could watch.
"It was rough-and-tumble," Emrick said. "And unpredictable."