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NBC broadcast team looking forward to Sochi

by Dan Rosen

Mike "Doc" Emrick will never forget the feeling he had 22 years ago when he was in Albertville, France, to call the Olympic men's hockey tournament for the first time.

"Intoxicating" is perhaps the best adjective he could use to describe the experience.

"I realized I wasn't sleeping that much and it wasn't out of fatigue and it wasn't out of fear; it was more out of the thrill. And that's seeing the best guys ever available from Finland, and the best guys from Czech Republic coming off the ice and coming on were the best guys possible from the United States and the best guys possible from Slovakia," Emrick said. "You go back to the hotel and you're still kind of charged up and so you kind of sleep fast if you can, and look forward to what you're going to see the next day.

"That's what happened in '92 and it's happened in every Olympics I've been fortunate to do since."

For the third straight time, Emrick will serve as NBC's lead voice for the Olympic hockey tournament. The 2014 Sochi Olympics are the seventh he has covered, including two Summer Olympics.

Joining Emrick in Sochi will be his regular partners, Eddie Olczyk and Pierre McGuire, as well as play-by-play broadcasters Dave Strader and Kenny Albert. Brian Engblom is joining the NBC crew for his Olympic debut.

Olczyk and McGuire each will be making his third straight appearance in the broadcast booth at the Winter Olympics. Strader last called the Olympics in 2006, and Albert will be making his fourth straight appearance.

NBC will also have a studio coverage team of Liam McHugh, Mike Milbury, Keith Jones and Jeremy Roenick. Kathryn Tappen of the NHL Network will join McHugh as the host of NBC's Olympic hockey coverage in Sochi.

Emrick said the Sochi Games could even be better than the Vancouver Games four years ago.

"Players were whispering to one another before 2010 in Vancouver saying they thought it would be the best tournament in the history of hockey," Emrick said. "Considering the playing level of all of the players who went to Vancouver you can understand why they'd say that, and I think it was. This one could surpass it certainly because of the caliber of the players that will be over there."

Olczyk is most curious to see how Henrik Lundqvist plays for Sweden. If the New York Rangers goaltender shines, he could help the Swedes win their second gold medal in the past three Olympics.

"For the most part, the majority of the season, he's been barely above average and we're not used to seeing Henrik Lundqvist do that," Olczyk said. "He's an Olympic champion. He's had a nice run here where it seems he has found his game. That's one story I am looking at for Sweden and I would have never said that a year ago. How will he play for his native country come the drop of the puck in Sochi?"

Olczyk also said he's as interested as anybody to find out what United States coach Dan Bylsma is going to do with his goaltending and if Ryan Miller or Jonathan Quick will emerge as the No. 1 goalie. Jimmy Howard is also in the mix.

"We've seen it in prior Olympics, in particular with Team Canada in 2010. When you start with a certain netminder, you put somebody else in there and you end up winning the gold medal," Olczyk said. "Either way he goes to start it may not be how it lasts. It'll be interesting to see which direction he does go to in Game 1."

A silver medalist at the Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002, Roenick thinks Bylsma should give Quick the first crack at winning the job.

"It's his job to lose, but you have to give Ryan Miller a bunch of credit for the way he's come out and played this year," Roenick said. "He's played on a horrible team [that] probably would be a lot worse if it wasn't for Ryan Miller and the way he has played. He's ready for the challenge, I'm sure. He's proven that he can do it, but I think this is Jonathan Quick's job to lose."

One of the top storylines McGuire said he's interested in is the pressure facing the Russian team as a gold-medal favorite playing on home ice and how, or better yet, if, they're going to be able to handle it.

"That was critically important for Canada in 2010 when they defended home ice and won the gold medal," McGuire said. "It's not an easy thing to do, especially in an amped-up hockey environment like you're going to see in Sochi. But I like to think that you're going to see Canada, Russia, the United States, Sweden and Finland be very competitive for those three medals.

"It's going to be amazingly intense. I really think the Americans have a legitimate chance to play for one of the three medals and potentially the gold medal."

As for Emrick, he simply can't wait for it all to start to unfold Wednesday. He's a 67-year-old Olympic veteran now, but the feeling of being in the center of the hockey universe is the same for him as it was 22 years ago.

"It's the excitement that gets in your blood and nothing changes that through the years," he said. "It's just fun to be there and to thank your lucky stars you get to do Olympic hockey because there is something special about it, and you can see it in the eyes of every player in October or November who is looking ahead to maybe being picked for their national team."


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