Toasting Doc

This afternoon, the New Jersey Devils announced that Mike “Doc” Emrick will be leaving his local TV post to work full-time for NBC/Versus.

Emrick posted a touching farewell letter to his fans on the Devils’ web site, which I will repost here:

“To the marvelous fans of the New Jersey Devils:

A good friend advised me several years ago that before any major decision, you should look in the mirror and look at your birth certificate.

Since my contracts with MSG, VERSUS, and NBC all expired late this spring, this was another of those times. I discovered that the birth certificate couldn’t be changed and it showed me to be 65 in a few days.

I’ve been extremely fortunate to have been able to spend 23 incredible years with the MSG Network channels and 21 equally enjoyable years–including 3 Stanley Cup championships–with the New Jersey Devils.  However, considering the long-term significance of this decision, I was able to construct a lighter regular season-schedule and the usual complement of Stanley Cup Playoffs and Stanley Cup Final games for NBC and VERSUS.

But that assurance of less travel and fewer games has regrettably led me to end my association with the MSG Network channels and the Devils.

The people at both of these organizations have been incredibly loyal to me and have been very patient waiting until mid-summer for me to reach this decision. Both have also provided me only positive memories, support, and encouragement over these many seasons.

I wanted Devils fans to know of this news quickly after I reached the decision since their kindness to my wife Joyce and me on countless occasions brought us so much joy. Candidly, it has also left me with a sense of regret that I will not be continuing to call the team’s games.

Words in prepared statements like these usually read very cold. Despite that, I hope you will sense how much I have enjoyed being around you and the team. This seemed the best way to get this news to you in the middle of the off-season.

I wish MSG Network and the Devils and Devils fans nothing but the greatest success in the years to come.”

Did you know that the Doctor’s first NHL broadcasting job was with the Flyers, back in 1982 on PRISM?

Here he is with Bobby “Chief” Taylor calling Game 1 of the 1983 Patrick Division Semifinals against the New York Rangers. Please skip ahead past the intro to the 13-second mark. PLEASE. YOU’LL THANK ME.

After one season, Emrick left to become the voice of the nascent Devils, then in only their second season in East Rutherford after a move from Denver. In 1986, though, he returned to the Flyers as intermission host, sharing duties on Channel 57 games with Steve Coates (Lord, do I wish I could find clips of that. Classic) for two seasons.

When Gene Hart and Taylor were pushed to the full-time radio gig for the 1988-89 season, Emrick and Bill Clement became the primary TV voices. They gave us some memorable moments during their four-year tenure.

Like this:

And this:

Or this, where Doc had the presence of mind to let Clement rant on:

And finally, this, during his final year in Philly when paired alongside Gary Dornhoefer, a simple goal call in a late-season game:

I think his best moments as a Flyers broadcaster, now considered early in his career with the passage of time, have nothing to do with what he later became famous for — his unique way with verbs to describe various actions, as well as his impeccable pronunciations of player names (as he was, for many years, the author of the NHL’s official pronunciation guide).

Instead, for me it was the way his voice rose on a near miss “Oh and that DIDN’T MISS BY MUCH…”

or an even nearer miss “HE HIT THE POST WITH THE SHOOOT”

or how his voice rose in an arc before fading away “glove SAVE Wregget” when old No. 35 used his unique sweeping motion to snag a puck out of mid-air.

It’s a damn shame that his tenure here coincided with the first and to date, only fallow period in team history. It’s even more galling that when he departed to return to the Devils, they began a run of success for the next decade and a half which included three Stanley Cups.

But still, there’s this. Emrick the ex-broadcaster, speaking on the national stage for the city he used to call home. It feels like an eternity ago, but a good way to cap this post with the closest the Flyers came to winning the Cup 13 months ago:

I can’t wait to hear him fire it up once again on January 2 when the Flyers and Rangers meet in the Winter Classic.