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Jotting it Down with Jesse: The Things We Don't Say

Monday, October 19th
Jotting it Down with Jesse: The Things We Don't Say

The news first reported by the New York Post on Monday morning sent shockwaves throughout the hockey world. Like many of my fellow broadcasters in the minor leagues, the announcement that Mike “Doc” Emrick was retiring after nearly five decades working in the NHL was a bittersweet moment - for many of us, Doc has had an indelible impact on our growth not just in our careers, but as people.

The accolades Emrick has accumulated for his work over the years are impressive: A spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame as a recipient of the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award, the Lester Patrick Award, enshrinement in the United States Hockey Hall of Fame and six national Emmy Awards.

But perhaps more importantly, it is the countless anecdotes shared by his colleagues, peers and admirers he has touched over the years who describe a man who has not only been an irreplaceable ambassador for this sport we’ve all come to love, but a truly cherished human being. And with the announcement of his retirement, the stories that are a testament to how beloved Doc is are coming out in droves.

As I’ve written before earlier this summer when longtime Tampa Bay Lightning broadcaster Rick Peckham announced his retirement, I grew up with an embarrassment of riches when it came to watching hockey in the New York suburbs, which qualified as the local TV market for the Rangers, Islanders and New Jersey Devils. For a young hockey fan, having the trifecta of Sam Rosen, Howie Rose and Doc - respectively - calling games on the local airwaves was quite simply a joy. There was always something to be learned from their articulate weaving of a game’s story, and Doc in particular.

For me, Doc’s brilliance in his calls wasn’t just his ability to bring his audience into the game - which was unparalleled; just as important was his innate ability to step back, pause and let a particular moment speak for itself.

I can think of no better example than his call of Martin St. Louis’ overtime goal for the New York Rangers in the 2014 Eastern Conference Final. As St. Louis fires a wrist shot above the shoulder of Dustin Tokarski with laser-like precision, Doc punctuates the moment with a definitive “SCORE!”

And then…nothing.

For almost 40 seconds, Doc and his color analyst Ed Olczyk simply let the atmosphere of a raucous and jubilant Madison Square Garden crowd erupt into a cacophonous, uninterrupted roar.

Simply put: sometimes his greatness was realized by what he *didn’t* say.

Some of you who were here eight years ago might recall that it was Doc who served as the narrator of the team’s Opening Night video for that first ECHL home game at Amway Center on October 20, 2012.

And some of you who have discovered your love for this sport and this team more recently might have seen Doc graciously display a Solar Bears jersey on the wall of his home studio in Michigan as he remotely called Game 4 of this year’s Stanley Cup Final between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Dallas Stars.

Many Solar Bears fans have told me how much of a surprise and a joy it was to witness the sweater of our minor league team with the quirky nickname and the bold colors receive a few moments of airtime in front of a national audience.

The story behind how that came to pass is even better, and perfectly encapsulates how amazing a person this man truly is.

After noticing early in the Stanley Cup Playoffs that Doc was using the wall of his home studio to showcase various minor league jerseys, an idea formed: how neat would it be for our jersey to be among the many featured by Doc?

And thus an exchange began, after first obtaining Doc’s email address from a pair of broadcasting peers who - like Doc - are proud alumni of Bowling Green State University. Upon making contact with Doc, I asked him if such a request was possible.

Not only did he say he would attempt to incorporate our jersey into a game broadcast at some point should the opportunity arise, but that he would be willing to autograph the jersey and ship it back if we wished to auction the jersey off to benefit some sort of charity involved with animals.

After selecting Canine Companions for Independence and the jersey made its appearance, the jersey was shipped back, along with a kind note from Doc and a generous financial contribution to the non-profit on his own part.

What more needs to be said, other than: Thank you, Doc.

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