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NHL broadcasting legend Mike 'Doc' Emrick retires after 47-year career

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit – Mike Emrick, one of the most popular sportscasters of all time, retired Monday, ending a 47-year career broadcasting hockey.

The Marysville, Mich., resident has been the lead play-by-play man the last 15 years for NBC Sports’ NHL coverage.

Mike Emrick

Emrick combined an unabashed excitement for the game with a long and unique vocabulary of words while describing the action – a characteristic that appealed to hockey and non-hockey fans alike.

“It seemed like it was time, I guess 50 was a round number in covering the league,” said Emrick Monday during an 80-minute conference call by NBC, announcing his retirement. “It was just also a time, that in your mid-70s, you realize that you have had a very healthy long run, except for the cancer scare (in 1991).

"There is certainly still the love for hockey that I always had. But this is the time for turning to other things, including a commitment to helping people with animals."

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Emrick and his wife Joyce have numerous dogs and horses, most of them rescues, on their property.

In 2011, Emrick became the first broadcaster to be inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame – one of seven Hall of Fame elections for Emrick. Emrick won eight Sports Emmy Awards for Outstanding Sports Personality/Play-by-Play, the most ever in that category.

Emrick began broadcasting college and minor league hockey in the 1970s. He rose through the ranks to broadcast 22 Stanley Cup Finals, 45 Stanley Cup playoffs, and six Olympics.

Emrick estimated he’s broadcasted 3,750 professional and Olympic games.

Emrick will remain a member of NBC Sports by occasionally writing and narrating video essays for its NHL coverage.

“Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick is a national treasure – simply put, he’s one of the best ever to put on a headset in the history of sports broadcasting,” said Sam Flood, executive producer and president, production, NBC and NBCSN. “Doc’s love of the game and his unmatched style produced true artistry, engaged new fans and quickly became the soundtrack of hockey.

“He lived at the rink on game days, spending countless hours at morning skates to find one more story to seamlessly weave into his frenetic, yet lyrical, call of a game. Doc always found the right words to meet the moment. It’s impossible to put into words the impact Doc has had not only on the game of hockey, but for anyone who has had the distinct pleasure to work with him.”

On the conference call, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, Flood, Emrick's broadcast partner Eddie Olczyk, veteran play-by-play man Al Michaels and New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello called in to offer congratulations.

“You have been simply magnificent at your craft,” Bettman said. “There’s nobody who does a play-by-play as well as you do. I just want to thank you for all of the incredible energy and effort you’ve given us and our fans.”

Olczyk was emotional in his comments, his voice cracking several times and also taking a moment to compose himself, while talking about his time with Emrick in the booth and outside the rink. 

The two worked together for 14 years.

"We all thank you, Doc, for your passion, your love for the game, your appreciation and love for people," Olczyk said. "We’re all much better for having you in our lives.”

There is a book about Emrick's life and career that will be released Tuesday, with 100 percent of proceeds from sales going directly to hands-on care of animals.

Symbolic of Emrick's graciousness and professionalism, when Monday's conference call ended and a number of questions went unanswered, Emrick asked the moderator to forward emails of those reporters who hadn't been able to ask questions.

Emrick said he would answer those questions directly later Monday afternoon.

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan