Mike 'Doc' Emrick, for decades the voice of NHL and Olympic hockey memories, announces his play-by-play retirement

Phil Rosenthal, Chicago Tribune

“Retire” is such a pedestrian verb, it’s hard to believe it has come out of Mike “Doc” Emrick’s mouth.

Yet the man with more than 100 terms to describe a shot or pass has in fact announced his last line change.

Did pucks “rattle,” “battle,” “pitchfork,” “shuffleboard,” “angle,” “waltz,” “chip,” “hop,” “skitter,” “waffleboard” or get “ladled” before Emrick left his audience with his indelible imagery?

Perhaps not, and perhaps never again.

Emrick’s retirement from his play-by-play duties Monday at 74 follows a half-century covering the sport and 47 seasons calling pro hockey games, the last few months from a make-shift studio in his home outside Detroit.

Since 2006, he has been NBC’s lead play-by-play voice. He was with Fox before that after some time with ESPN/ABC. He called other sports over the years — including the NFL — but hockey will be his legacy.

If you have a memory of some historic hockey event from recent decades — such as the Chicago Blackhawks’ championships in 2010 (sans goal light for Patrick Kane’s overtime winner), 2013 and 2015 — there is a very good chance it’s inseparable from Emrick’s recitation of it.

Emrick has been the voice of 45 postseason Game 7s in the NHL and described no fewer than 22 Stanley Cup Finals, not to mention six Winter Olympics, 19 NHL Winter Classics and Stadium Series games and 14 NHL All-Star Games.

He said in a self-narrated farewell video he’ll continue to contribute occasional video essays for NBC, but this is a seismic shift for lovers of hockey and first-rate broadcasting.

There has been no one better.

Even his nickname, Doc, has been earned. Emrick received his Ph.D. in broadcast communications from Bowling Green State University in 1976.

NBC Sports executive producer Sam Flood called him “a national treasure” and said he was “one of the best ever to put on a headset in the history of sports broadcasting” in the network’s announcement.

Emrick got his start covering the Pittsburgh Penguins as a freelance reporter for Pennsylvania’s Beaver County Times. His announcing career began at Bowling Green, segued through the minor-league IHL and AHL. Then came stints with the Philadelphia Flyers, New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers, entrees to the national stage.

By his own count, he has called more than 3,750 games between the pros and Olympics.

Emrick earned eight sports Emmy Awards for his play-by-play personality, including an unmatched seven victories in a row from 2014-20 in the category. He has been honored by seven Halls of Fame, including the Hockey Hall of Fame, the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame and the National Sports Media Hall of Fame.

“It has been a privilege and education on hockey’s biggest stage to have sat next to Doc for the last 14 years,” said lead NBC NHL analyst Eddie Olczyk, the former Blackhawk, in a statement. “I will miss his stories, his preparation, his play-by-play, his friendship, and our dinners on the road. But most of all, I will miss his trust.”

In his video valediction, Emrick recalled the historic sweep of his career and assured fans it has meant as much to him as it did to them.

“Things change over 50 years, but much of what I love is unchanged from then to now and into the years ahead,” he said. “I still get chills seeing the Stanley Cup.

“I especially love when the horn sounds, and one team has won and another team hasn’t, all hostility can dissolve into the timeless great display of sportsmanship — the handshake line. I leave you with sincere thanks.”

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