DENVER – As the Red Wings prepare to play in their third NHL outdoor game and Brad Richards his league-record fifth, the man entrusted to describe the action to a nationally-televised audience will be calling his 12th outdoor game.
Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick will be behind the microphone working alongside color analyst Eddie Olczyk on NBC’s broadcast of today’s Stadium Series outdoor game between the Red Wings and Colorado Avalanche at Coors Field.
“To be healthy enough and chosen – those are the two factors – and I’m thankful to God that I am both,” said the 9-year-old Emrick. “There’s not one of them that’s boring. When you arrive and see the rink set up and you see it against the context of a football or baseball stadium it’s brand new each time and it’s exciting each time. So for that reason, I don’t think this is going to get old.”
Since that first outdoor game at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo, Emrick has been hook to what he calls a fan spectacular. However, he was a bit skeptical the day before the Sabres hosted the Pittsburgh Penguins in a football stadium.
“You saw 70 thousand mostly empty seats because it was the practice the day before,” Emrick said. “But then your imagination takes over and you just wonder what it will be like the next day. Then the next day happens. After the fact I talked to some members of the Penguins and I said ‘What was it like, what do you remember?’ And one of them, Ryan Whitney said, ‘I remember walking down the ramp. There are flames coming out of big torches, bagpipes are playing and 70 thousand people are cheering, and Colby Armstrong was in front of me and I tapped him and I said, Army, look at this. A lifetime memory here.’
“I think that’s what it is with most of them. Now people like Brad Richards will have it for a fifth time today, but I think you always remember that first one and I sure do.”
For Emrick, his favorite outdoor game to call was the one that was closest to his home in St. Clair, Mich. – the Detroit-Toronto matchup at Michigan Stadium on the campus of the University of Michigan.
Emrick said that game was special for a number of reasons.
“It wasn’t because it was convenient for me to get home because no one had an easy time getting home,” Emrick of the snowy New Year’s Day in 2014. “I think it took four hours to get to St. Clair and that’s usually an hour and 20 minutes. But it was the atmosphere going in. It was the fact that there were representatives of both teams in the stands. The farm teams had had a game at (Detroit’s) Comerica Park and there was an overriding – not rivalry and not bitterness – but joy about being outdoors in a place and watching a game go into overtime and having Henrik Zetterberg’s breakaway called back by the horn that divided the overtime into two halves and a big ‘ah’ went up from part of the crowd and stunned silence from the other because they didn’t understand why the game had stopped. But it was that mass of people and the snow all day and all of those factors added together.”
Emrick says more preparation goes into the outdoor spectaculars than does a normal regular-season game. He’ll learn anecdote about the stadium, historical data as well as other tidbits to share throughout the broadcast as needed.
Being overly prepared is something Emrick learned during a time when he called NFL games on CBS with Matt Millen and Hank Stram.
“The presentation of football on Sunday was just like this, it was gradually working its way up with more information, more information and by the time you got to Saturday you felt you were on overload,” he said. “But by the same token you realized the event justifies it. And the event justified it just like this one does.
“So if for some reason or another we’re showing that sign in left centerfield we’ll know that Mark Piazza hit one 496 feet and that’s the longest home run ever here. It probably goes in my mental trash basket at the end of the day but in case it comes up and the Rock Pile in centerfield has the cheapest ticket in baseball. It’s priced depending on the opponent but it can be as low as four dollars. Those are things that are fun for me to look at. I like researching for that reason, just like you do, but the other side of it is it maybe unused and if it is that meant the game was pretty good.”