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Emrick, Olczyk to call All-Star Game

by John McGourty
"Together Again," Buck Owens' huge hit that later was a hit for Al Green, Dwight Yoakum, Kenny Rogers and Dottie West, first was recorded in 1964, two years before Versus broadcaster Ed Olczyk was born, and ended with the famous refrain, "nothing else matters, we're together again."

Olczyk will be reunited with play-by-play announcer Mike "Doc" Emrick for Sunday's 57th NHL All-Star Game at the Bell Centre in Montreal, which will be televised at 6 p.m. ET on Versus, CBC and RDS.

Emrick was scheduled to work with Olczyk at the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic 2009 game Jan. 1 between the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks at Wrigley Field, but was felled by laryngitis. He took medication and was able to make it to a hotel room in Chicago, but decided he couldn't do the broadcast.

"Missing any game is hard," Emrick said during a conference call Wednesday. "It was just one of those bugs that settled in my vocal chords. I went through two five-day cards of antibiotics and watched from my hotel room in Chicago. I realized I just wasn't going to be strong enough, and they don't hire closers in our business.

"I regretted that (missing the game), but Dave Strader came in and did a magnificent job with just one day's notice."

Strader did do a great job, but Emrick was missed.

"It's a great thrill again to work with Hall of Famer Doc Emrick," Olczyk said.

Olczyk also said he's happy about continuing his work at Versus, which has invested heavily in NHL broadcasts and now is reaping the rewards.

"Our staff and leadership at Versus has put in 110-percent effort over the past couple of years," said Olczyk.

Olczyk's remarks were amplified by Versus Executive Vice President of Programming, Production and Business Operations Marc Fein.

"We're excited to be covering our third consecutive NHL All-Star Game this year," Fein said. "It's coming at a great time, momentum-wise, for Versus and the NHL. ... Viewership is up 20 percent this year, the largest viewership gains of any cable broadcaster. ... This is a good time for the NHL All-Star Game to hit and we're going to make a huge night out of it."

Emrick and Olczyk said they were caught up in the excitement of doing the game in Montreal during the 100th anniversary of the Montreal franchise.

"It's one of the few hockey meccas in the world," Olczyk said. "The Canadiens have a way of putting on a show. It's a great event and we have some of the greatest players in our game. ... It's a great weekend, a great event and the people at Versus are glad to have this event."

"It's the notion of how Montreal does everything," Emrick said. "They do it with class and an appreciation of the history of the game. ... I know there will be 21,273 fans there, which will set a record for an NHL All-Star Game."

Emrick and Olczyk were asked how they handle one of the most difficult aspects of an NHL All-Star Game -- convincing viewers that the goaltenders really are stars. Fans can easily see the skating and shooting skills of forward Alexander Ovechkin and the other prominent NHL scorers and the strength of defensive stalwarts like Zdeno Chara, but how can they tell how good the goalie is when he's giving up three or four goals per period?

"I feel bad for the goalie, I really do," said Olczyk, whose 342 NHL goals indicate he hasn't spent a lot of time feeling bad for goalies. "I don't know what other way we can help them out, so to speak. The guys will be making four and five passes and the defense is jumping up into the play. I don't know.

"The League has kicked it around, what to do. … I feel great shame for our goalies, having to be in this game. They go in without a warm-up or taking enough shots."

Balance the sensitivity of this statement with the fact Olczyk was giggling through most of his answer.

"I remember one year Marty Brodeur was miked up and he said the earpiece came out of his helmet," Emrick said. "I'm not sure how much he cared to listen to me. But then he said he heard me say, 'Here comes Bill Guerin up the right wing.' Marty said I helped him find the puck just before Bill let go one of his patented scorching slap shots.

"Goalies have a good sense of humor about this and the ones who don't usually don't wind up here. The late Pelle Lindbergh got lit up in the third period one year and had a bit of mental distress for about a month after that. He did rebound. Of course, Wayne Gretzky had a lot to do with those goals, as he usually did.
"It's a great thrill again to work with Hall of Famer Doc Emrick." -- Ed Olczyk

"A goalie who is sensitive can be brought down by his experiences at the NHL All-Star Game."

The broadcasters were asked to comment on the great career of Montreal right wing Alex Kovalev, an Olympic and World Championship gold medalist who will serve as captain for the Eastern Conference. Kovalev always seems to find his way to hockey's biggest stages.

"Alex was part of one of the greatest teams I've ever seen, the 1992 Unified Team, coached by Viktor Tikhonov," Emrick said. "The Soviet Union was gone and they pieced that team together. Later, 15 of those players played in the NHL, guys like Darius Kasparaitis and Vladimir Malakhov. Nikolai Khabibulin was the third goalie on that team and never got to play.

"... That was one of my favorite teams. Whenever I've talked to Alex Kovalev about them, he always remembers his linemates and team members. Alex has had a great career and was an important part of that wonderful team. Now the Canadiens are doing very well, winners of six of their last eight games, and they've got four starters in the NHL All-Star Game."

Emrick's got his favorite teams and we have ours, one of them being Emrick and Olczyk -- together again and nothing else matters.

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