PHILADELPHIA -- As Mike "Doc" Emrick has done countless times since technology has allowed him, he opened his laptop Thursday night to listen to the ECHL's Fort Wayne Komets game streaming via internet radio. This time, though, a strange feeling overcame Emrick.
For the first time in his life, Emrick didn't hear his close friend Bob Chase on the call.
Chase, the Komets' radio broadcaster on WOWO-AM for 63 seasons, from 1953 through the end of last season, died early Thursday from an illness. He was 90.
"It was the Komets, but it just didn't seem like the Komets last night," Emrick said Friday before calling NBC's telecast of the game between the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers at Wells Fargo Center. "It did seem odd."
Emrick, who grew up near Fort Wayne in LaFontaine, Indiana, first met Chase, his idol, as a college student in 1968. It's a memory he cherishes and a story he loves to tell.
"You know, we're all con artists when we're college kids and we want to meet somebody," Emrick said. "We tell them we're doing a term paper, which I was. So he was very gracious with his time. I was a fan of the team and I think he sensed I was a fan of his because we did a taped interview at the time about sports announcing as a lifetime job and I said, 'My favorite call was of Len Thornson's goal last spring in the playoffs that forced overtime at the horn. And so Bob went into the control room and got a copy of it and made me a copy and spun it off for me."
Thornson's goal in the 1968 International Hockey League playoffs forced overtime against Dayton, but the Komets lost in overtime and were eliminated.
"Norm Waslawski won the draw. It was with three seconds to go," Emrick said. "It was such an exciting call because all Bob said was, 'The draw, Was wins it, Thornson shoots, score,' and he said nothing more for a minute. The crowd took care of the rest.
"Bob laid off all of it, including the crowd, and I still have it."
When their meeting was over, Emrick went back to his car and realized he had forgotten something.
"I had cut out a 1-1/2-square-inch picture of him from the program and I had left it in my Volkswagen Beetle," he said. "I had done the interview, he gave me this great goal call to take with me, and I had forgotten the picture. So I went out to the car and there it is sitting in the passenger seat. I screwed up my courage and I walked back in and talked to the receptionist. 'Can I see Bob again?' She called him back out and he goes, 'Oh Mike, what is it?' I said, 'Can I get an autograph.' This picture is no bigger than a postage stamp and there was nothing in the lobby right there to write on, so he got down on one knee, and he's 6-feet-4, and signed this 1-1/2-square inch picture for me."
Emrick still has the autographed picture.
"He became a friend for life," he said.
Emrick received a text message from Kurt Chase, one of Bob Chase's four children, early Thursday to let him know his idol had died at about 2:40 a.m.
Emrick said he learned that Chase's children, Kurt, Michael, David and Karin, all were with their father at the time. His wife of 66 years, Muriel, is still alive but unable to care for herself because of an illness. Muriel is cared for at Fort Wayne Hospital, where Chase died.
"Duke, his black lab, paid a visit two days ago, wagging his tail of course, being the big, excitable black lab that he is," Emrick said, smiling.
Chase's children were at the Komets game against Kalamazoo on Thursday. Fort Wayne won 6-1 with 7,181 in attendance at Memorial Coliseum.
The Komets did a tribute to Chase on the scoreboard during the game, and NBC will air its own tribute to him during the second intermission Friday.
Emrick wasn't clear yet on funeral plans, but he plans to attend as long as his schedule allows.
"The Komets were prepared for him to be starting his 64th year this fall, but he had gotten ill in the fall so he had not been able to start the season," Emrick said. "I think the last conversation we had on the phone was probably about three weeks ago."