Ladles, Feathers, Squibs And Hooks: Doc Emrick's Keys To Calling A Pass

Jun 11, 2014
Originally published on June 12, 2014 4:20 pm

Legendary NHL play-by-play announcer Michael "Doc" Emrick takes a break from the Stanley Cup finals to discuss how he prepares for calling games, as well as the many ways to describe a pass.

NHL game audio clip courtesy of NHL Radio and NHL Network.

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It's game four of the Stanley Cup finals tonight. The Los Angeles Kings are up three games to none over the New York Rangers. So a win tonight would give the Kings the championship. For many years this has been the voice of the Stanley Cup.


MIKE EMRICK: Thrown in by Nash, cranked ahead and slowed down by Carter. Brought on by Williams protect - got it to Carter. Score.

BLOCK: That's Mike Emrick known as "Doc" calling Monday night's game on the NBC Sports Network. He's done play-by-play for more than 3,000 games in his career and he's the first-ever broadcaster to be inducted in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. Doc Emrick joins me now. Welcome to the program. Great to talk to you.

EMRICK: It is wonderful to talk to you, Melissa. Exciting day here in New York, too.

BLOCK: Absolutely. You know my first question is, I think about this, is when do you breath?

EMRICK: I have help. I have Ed Olczyk next to me and we sometimes communicate with nudges and he knows during overtime in particular tha when the play is between the blue lines I have got a chance to catch my breath and he has a chance to just jump in with something.

BLOCK: Do you have a routine for what you do to get ready before a game?

EMRICK: Yeah it's - first of all, it's a background on some of the players. It's designed, Melissa, for maybe the six seconds when my partners don't have anything to say before a face-off. They were talking the other day about Kyle Clifford who wears number 13 for Los Angeles, and though I didn't get it on the air, I had ready the fact that he had worked at a horse farm and had grease farm equipment when he was younger and if they win the cup I wonder if he'll take it back to visit the horses. Knowing that Eddie Olczyk when he won in 94 with the New York Rangers took it to a track where, Go for Gin, a horse actually ate oats out of the Stanley Cup.

BLOCK: Doc, you are legendary among hockey fans for having a huge arsenal of verbs that you use to describe passes, and I jotted down a few of them when I was watching Monday night's game. I heard you say feathers it, hooks it, knifed it down and a lot of people have had a lot of fun with your vocabulary. Dead spin even did a mash-up of you calling passes with a Daft Punk song. It sounds like this.


BLOCK: They give you a soundtrack Doc Emrick.

EMRICK: I know. Some people don't have a lot to do with their time but I wish sure honored that they decided to do that.

BLOCK: I've read that you trace your passion for hockey back to one particular night back in 1960, you were 14 years old. Why don't you tell us what happened that night?

EMRICK: Wow, you've done your research well.

BLOCK: A little bit.

EMRICK: My dad was high school principal and he also ran a music store on the side, and my mom was a guidance counselor. And they would take the staff to an event each year and it varied. So one year it was a hockey game and I had only wanted to do baseball up until that time but having watched hockey live for the first time and it was one of those rare weird epiphany moments. It took seven years after I finished college before I even got my first job, But when I got my first pass it meant that I no longer had to pay to get in.

EMRICK: Getting in free is great and getting a good seat for the game is better.

BLOCK: Well, a couple of years ago during the NHL lockout NBC sent you to Troy, Michigan, to call a 12 and under girls game. Let's take a listen what that sounded like.


EMRICK: Locked in a game kept on rolling, Gordon had to be very careful there an the puck was loose there behind her. Trying to steer it into her from behind her.

EMRICK: When I heard you mention that, I started to get goose bumps. It's one of the best nights I've ever spent in a hockey arena.

BLOCK: Really?

EMRICK: Yes. These were kids that were 8, 9, 10 and 11 years old, and you see them there and this is an activity for them. One wanted to be a veterinarian, and I said, do you have dogs and cats? She said, yes - one dog, two cats and three hermit crabs. Now, I'd never heard of a pet hermit crab. I said, what do they eat? Little rolled up bits of lettuce, she said. So I learn something every day. But it was fun seeing the game at such a pure level with these kids. So innocent just wanting to go out and play a game hard and enjoy teammates. It was fun.

BLOCK: Well, Doc Emrick, thanks so much for talking to us.

EMRICK: Thank you.


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