Long-time voice of hockey in the United States, Mike Emrick, was at the morning skate on Wednesday before the Detroit Red Wings hosted the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Emrick retired after calling the 2020 Stanley Cup Final in the bubble in Edmonton, and now lives in Michigan, roughly an hour from Detroit in St. Clair.
He’s been happily watching hockey at home and said he’s been able to enjoy it as a fan while taking care of his dogs and horses.
One of the things that made Emrick so talented, in my view, was his understanding he was there to call a game and not make himself the centre of attention. Sure he had some quirks in word choice – blockers often become waffle boards, and so on – but he was authentic and while he could have spent time telling more stories, he stuck to the play-by-play better than some other broadcasters.
Because when he wasn’t on the air, Emrick always had a story that could relate. He and I both went to Bowling Green, albeit at much different times, and would always chat about things connected to BGSU from either the past or present.
He also would always be good for a story that you weren’t expecting.
Because of my history covering the Dallas Stars, I spent nearly a decade on the beat in Texas. We ended up talking about the old Reunion Arena, the Stars home from 1993 to 2001.
Emrick called one of the first hockey games in Reunion Arena, and it was a neutral site game between the New York Islanders and St. Louis Blues during the 1992-93 season. The NHL played a handful of neutral site games during the 1992-93 and 1993-94 seasons, and expanded the schedule to 84 games, to test out potential expansion markets, like Dallas.
Emrick recalled being set up to call the game, standing at the top of one of the sections, when two fans walked up to him with tickets for the seats where the temporary broadcast perch had been set up.
“I think it was the first NHL game there and it wasn’t really built for hockey,” Emrick said. “We were in their seats, we all had a good laugh about it. Thankfully they were able to find two other empty ones.”