– Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick, who is synonymous with hockey broadcasting, will reach another milestone on Monday when he calls his 3,000th professional men’s hockey game on Versus when the Red Wings host Pittsburgh at Joe Louis Arena.
As a Michigander, Emrick couldn’t be happier that his milestone will be in Hockeytown, because about 40 of his friends and relatives, including his veterinarian and his accountant, will get to celebrate the achievement with him in person.
“It just worked out that way,” said Emrick, who lives with his wife, Joyce, in St. Clair, Michigan, which is northeast of Detroit. “I told my wife about 10 days ago, we planned this day last summer. And I thought, it’s going to be give-or-take, it’s going to be around 3,000 when the game is held, but it came right out on and you never would have thought that. It’ll be kind of a special night.
“We have a couple of relatives flying out for it and then everybody else is in the area. It’ll be nice to have 40 of them all in one place.”
The number of pro games that he has broadcast is about the equivalent of some 36 ½ NHL seasons — certainly a milestone that most announcers can only dream of reaching.
But Emrick counts himself lucky that he made it over a thousand, especially after a bout with cancer 19 years ago. Although he said Monday will be more about the world-class players that will be on the ice than his own personal accomplishments, it’s still going to be quite a memorable night for him.
Ken Daniels, who calls Wings’ games for FS Detroit, has Monday night off from his usual broadcasting duties, but will be filling in as PA announcer at JLA.
“I actually get to announce that it’s Doc’s 3,000th game, and for me that means a lot,” Daniels said, “because when I came into the league, he was an inspiration. I heard him long before, I was a (Philadelphia) Flyers fan way back when he was working for the Flyers.
"Ironically enough, when I came to Detroit, my visa wasn’t cleared yet when I came over from ‘Hockey Night in Canada’, and Doc Emrick filled in here for the first two games for me. And actually it was my job at the time, and I was watching Doc call the games. So I was little envious because I wanted to be in there, but I wouldn’t have wanted anyone else but Doc to be doing my job until I got in there. So it was an honor just to have him do it.”
Hockey has always been a passion for Emrick, who upon graduating from Manchester College in 1968, applied to every hockey team that he could find. His persistence paid off when in 1973 he landed a gig with the Port Huron (Michigan) Flags of the International Hockey League.
Some 37 years later, Emrick remains synonymous with the game, working as the voice of the New Jersey Devils, as well as the lead announcer for NBC and Versus, and for both men’s and women’s ice hockey at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games.
Emrick and his wife moved back to St. Clair in 1996 after the network that he was employed with didn’t mind where he lived, as long as he made it to the games in time. He’s reached over a million miles in the air, but wouldn’t have his situation any other way.
“We thought we’d never be able to move back here,” said Emrick, who is still a Red Wings’ season ticket holder. “But then I said, ‘Does it matter to you where we live?’ And they said, ‘No, live in Anchorage if you want to, just get to the games on time.’ At that point we moved back here, and have been here ever since.”
The Red Wings will pay a special in-arena tribute to Doc Emrick during the third period of Monday’s game.