Doc Emrick is essentially the voice of hockey today. He’s done it very well for a very long time, and at this point in his career, he’s done just about everything a hockey broadcaster can do.
So it’s understandable that any aspiring hockey announcer would look up to Emrick. It’s especially understandable in the case of Evan Pivnick, the hockey announcer at Bowling Green, where Emrick received the PhD in broadcasting that earned him the “Doc” moniker.
Imagine Pivnick’s surprise when he learned that he’d be calling a game with Emrick as part of an alumni event:
“I called my dad after I found out and told him about it,” Pivnick said. “That’s kind of when it sank in that I’m going to call a game with THE guy when it comes to broadcasting hockey. I’m extremely excited about it.”
The occasion is the 50th anniversary of Bowling Green’s Slater Family Ice Arena, for which Emrick and other hockey-related alumni will return for a game against Mercyhurst. Pivnick will call the first and third periods, with Emrick as his color commentator; Emrick will call the second.
Try to imagine being Pivnick at the moment he learned this was going to happen. He thought it was a joke:
When he first received a text from Emrick, he thought someone was playing a joke. But it was real; Emrick wanted to go over pronunciations of the players’ names.“This was more than a month away from the game,” Pivnick said. “That’s why I thought someone was messing with me.” Emrick soon was on the phone, and the two spoke for 40 minutes.
“He apologized for taking my time,” Pivnick said. “He asked if it’s OK if we do this or that on the broadcast. I was thinking, but didn’t say to him, ‘You’re the one in the [United States] Hockey Hall of Fame. You can kick me out of the booth if you want.’
Emrick wanted to go over pronunciations a month before a college game! This is why he’s among the best to ever do it. Emrick taking the time to do something like this with a student isn’t that surprising, though, when you consider how Doc himself first got into hockey broadcasting.
As a student in Indiana, he contacted Bob Chase, voice of the minor league Fort Wayne Komets, and was granted a conversation that grew into a mentorship. Here’s a bit from SI on their relationship:
“When you start broadcasting you are a hybrid of the people you listen to so before I developed a style of my own I was basically trying to be Bob Chase,” Emrick said.
In an interview with SI.com on Thursday, Chase recalled Emrick coming around the rink as a teenager.
“The thing of it was he was a very patient kid,” he said. “He did not neglect his education which was very important. He was so intelligent and had such an extensive vocabulary and good control of it, I just knew because of how he presented himself, I thought he was a can’t-misser. Once you met the guy, you had to love him. He was so good.”
Emrick returned in 2016 to call a game with his mentor as part of Chase’s 90th birthday celebration, which NBC covered:
Chase passed away last fall at 90, and Emrick recalled their first conversation. It’s impossible to read this and not see why Doc is so willing to do something like call a game with a student broadcaster like Pivnick:
“You know, we’re all con artists when we’re college kids and we want to meet somebody,” Emrick said. “We tell them we’re doing a term paper, which I was. So he was very gracious with his time.”
“I was a fan of the team and I think he sensed I was a fan of his because we did a taped interview at the time about sports announcing as a lifetime job and I said, ‘My favorite call was of Len Thornson’s goal last spring in the playoffs that forced overtime at the horn. And so Bob went into the control room and got a copy of it and made me a copy and spun it off for me.”
And now Emrick continues to pay things forward, in fun ways. It’s tough to find fault with him either on or off the air.