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Emrick pays tribute to Winnipeg and its fans

by Mike G. Morreale
WINNIPEG -- There are few who can tell a story as well as one of the most recognizable voices in sports, Mike "Doc" Emrick.
In a recent interview with, Emrick, who will be inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in December, offered an eloquent picture of what NHL fans can expect when heading to Winnipeg for the first time.
"You will see a lot of flat land when you fly into Winnipeg -- lots of farm land," Emrick told "I think that's part of the reason the winters can be pretty rough … nothing to stop the weather rolling across from the Rockies and Alberta. If you wear a hairpiece, it's a triple-taper to keep it on.
"And the airport is the closest to downtown than any other in the League."


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The memories were fresh and based entirely on his initial visits to the old Winnipeg Arena that housed the original Jets from 1979 through '96.
"I recall being in Winnipeg for a Flyers' game in October 1980," he said. "It was gorgeous. You'll notice that there's a lot of color there compared to New York by now and I recall them having a pumpkin festival so there was lots of orange and black … not counting the Flyers.
"My first time in Winnipeg was the coldest I had been before, but not since. I recall being at (the city's famous intersection of) Portage and Main at the Westin on New Year's Eve in 1980. Gary Green and the Washington Capitals had just played the Jets and were bringing in the New Year there. The Flyers were to arrive the next day for their game on Jan. 2 and I remember going outside the hotel to walk around the corner but coming back quickly -- it was minus-20 degrees Celsius with a wind."
Still, cold weather never stopped Emrick, who has called 13 Stanley Cup Finals as the lead national announcer on NBC, Versus, Fox and ESPN. Emrick spent more than two decades with both MSG and the New Jersey Devils before announcing on July21 that he'd work exclusively for NBC Sports and Versus.
"Like Buffalo, the cold in Winnipeg is a hackneyed way to look at the city," Emrick continued. "Great, friendly people I always found. The old arena also housed the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame and the Jets usually played the Flyers and later the Devils pretty tough. There was an enormous portrait of Queen Elizabeth hanging from one end of the rink and (on my return there) I'll be curious if she's back in the new (MTS Centre)."
Funny thing is, Emrick's memory bank was flooded with stills of those hockey-crazed fans and the city -- not so much of the actual games he did from the broadcast booth.
"I don't have any unusual memories of the games but a lot of good memories of being in the area," he said.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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