The Mike Emrick Story
Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick is a wonderfully gifted individual. Originally from La Fontaine, Indiana, the avid baseball and hockey fan grew up to become one of the most recognizable voices in all of hockey. It has been a life of commitment, dedication, education, and faith that has helped propel the six-time Emmy Award winner to the game’s highest level.
After fulfilling the requirements for a bachelor’s degree in speech (Manchester University 1968) and a master’s degree in radio/television (Miami University 1969), Emrick taught speech and broadcasting in Pittsburgh at Geneva College before attaining his Ph.D. in communications (Bowling Green State University 1976).
The now 72-year-old began calling play-by-play for the IHL and AHL, before officially beginning with the NHL in the early 1980s. After making a name for himself in Philadelphia and later New Jersey, ‘Doc’ Emrick found his new home at NBC Sports in 2011 — where he remains to this day.
“My wife Joyce and I didn’t have children, however, we do have a lot of canine and equine children,” Emrick said. “We have horses and dogs, but due to the complexity of my work and travel schedule, we chose not to have children. It used to be a frantic 36 weeks of the year, but I just do one game a week now, and in the playoffs, I still cover all four series. We prayerfully considered the decision, but ultimately chose to take in rescues and other creatures, as opposed to trying to raise children on the fly.”
Raised alongside his older brother Dan, in a Christian home by the daughter of a Methodist pastor, it meant that on Sundays the Emricks would attend church. Attending morning worship was certainly a powerful experience for Emrick, but as he says, the real lessons came at the family home.
“You can’t choose your parents, but God picked some really good ones for me,” he said. “It was a town of 600, and we were in church every Sunday, going through baptism and the equivalent of Roman Catholic-style Catechism. We were raised through osmosis. Everyone has to make the choice to continue attending church at some point, but through osmosis, we were raised in a Christian home, and for that, I am very grateful.”
Now, after 40 years of marriage, calling 20 Stanley Cup finals, and being the voice of the ever-popular EA Sports NHL video game series, the highly acclaimed television broadcaster still makes time for church.
“I try to attend services, but you wind up not getting to them as often as you would like,” Emrick reflected. “You wind up having regular churches in other cities. There is one in Chicago that I go to whenever I’m in town, even if it’s in the middle of the week, I’ll go in and sit down. It sounds odd, but it’s a place of great peace for me. It’s Forth Presbyterian, right on Michigan Avenue, across from all of the major hotels and the John Hancock Center. It’s just a wonderful place to go; I know several of the people there and it just makes it seem like a home church, even though it’s about 350 miles away from where I live.”
Emrick says that living as a “vagabond” leaves ample time for self-reflection and positive self-growth while on the road — an ability he picked up some 55 years ago.
“When I was a teenager, my mom got me a periodical called The Upper Room,” he said. “It was a hand-sized devotional published every two months, and it was very easy to travel with. So it became a part of my morning routine, whether that happened to be in high school or college, and still to this day I get it.”
“I also keep some simple reminders, wise sayings and brief prayers with me in my three-ring binder, which I reflect on occasionally before games. One of my favourites is a few lines from Presbyterian minister Fred Rogers, who is better known to some as Mr. Rogers. He says: “Some days, doing ‘the best we can’ may still fall short of what we would like to be able to do. But life isn’t perfect on any front, and doing what we can with what we have is the most we should expect of ourselves or anyone else.”
Emrick — a cancer survivor (beat prostate cancer in 1991) — may know better than anyone that every gifted day is precious. That statement becomes even more apparent when those days are spent doing the thing that one loves the most.
“Most of us who have been cured of cancer this long have days, and occasionally weeks, that go by where we never think about it, just because it’s been so long,” Emrick reflected. “But you run the risk of taking it for granted unless you’re reminded of it every so often. I am still in awe of being able to walk across the street tonight to Capital One Arena, sit up in a booth, and be able to share the excitement of a hockey game with other people.
All the while watching and talking to some of the finest people in the world, who also happen to be great athletes. Boy, you couldn’t have a better way of making a living than that.”