Mike Emrick spent decades narrating hockey’s biggest moments happening live in front of him.
That’s also how “Doc” wants to experience a documentary about his life and career.
NBC will air “Doc Emrick — The Voice of Hockey” Sunday afternoon after a second NHL outdoor game at Lake Tahoe. The program will feature more than a dozen current and former broadcasters sharing their thoughts on the now-retired play-by-play broadcaster. Emrick did interviews for the special but asked the network not to tell him anything in advance, so he can enjoy it like a gift.
“It’s like a present,” Emrick said Tuesday from his Michigan home. “They’re doing a really nice thing for me, and I would rather not ask a lot of questions about, well, what are you getting me for Christmas?”
NBC Sports got Wayne Gretzky, Sidney Crosby, Martin Brodeur, T.J. Oshie and many others to weigh in on Emrick, who was the voice of the the sport in the United States before putting down the headset this past fall. Crosby says Emrick was a legend when they first met in 2005 and that “he describes exactly what you’re feeling in that moment as a player.”
Emrick doesn’t know how he’ll feel when he and his wife, Joyce, sit down to watch the special Sunday. He knows only what he has seen on promos and what producer Vinny Costello showed him while interviewing him at the McMorran Place theater in Port Huron.
Even that process was a lot to Emrick, who watched as NBC Sports crew members spent an hour constructing a track on which to wheel a camera back and forth. He recalled a cruise retired player Dave Brown went on many years ago and his feeling watching a chef make crepes.
“He said, ‘It seems like a lot of trouble to go to for pancakes,’” Emrick said. “And that sort of struck me. ... They were doing an awful lot, and it was very kind of them to do. I’ll enjoy whatever it is they do because I trust them implicitly with it.”
Beyond what should be a surprise — appearances by longtime broadcast partner Glenn “Chico” Resch and footage of Emrick honoring mentor Bob Chase for his 90th birthday — are things he does know about. Emrick laughs at analyst Bill Clement’s impressions and also gets to re-do the biggest call of his career he’d want back: missing the puck going in the net on Patrick Kane’s Stanley Cup-winning overtime goal in 2010.
“Chicago has won its first championship since 1961!” Emrick says in his mulligan.
Asked why he wanted to be kept in the dark on the story about him, Emrick naturally has a comparison from his career. Talking to George Armstrong many years ago in Toronto, Emrick asked the 1967 Cup-winning Maple Leafs captain if he’d ever been to the Hockey Hall of Fame and was told no, because he wouldn’t want someone to walk in and see him looking at himself.
“I would rather other people tend to things like this rather than me standing around wanting to know what they’re doing,” Emrick said. “It’ll be interesting to watch.”