Listening to Mike “Doc” Emrick call a hockey game is like watching a highly dramatic scripted television show unfold, and his call of the United States men’s hockey opening round olympic game against Slovakia was no different.
Emrick was paired with his usual “NHL on NBC” partners Eddie Olczyk and Pierre McGuire in Sochi, Russia. Following the game action was of no issue what so ever, and that’s a huge credit to Emrick. His diction is on point with there basically never being a time when the viewer wasn’t sure what he said.
Whenever Emrick calls a game, it’s like he’s reading a rehearsed script. He knew every single players name, and he keeps you on the edge of your seat making his games particularly enjoyable. When something exciting is brewing, you can hear it in his voice.
In the second period, Slovakia had a 2 on 0, and you could hear Emrick raise his level of intensity. Even someone who had no idea what was going on would feel like they were in the game. US goalie Jonathan Quick ended up making the save, but when the play was over you felt like you were on a roller coaster ride for a brief moment.
Emrick’s knowledge about the game situation is easily noticeable. He knew what happened the last time the US played Slovakia in the Vancouver olympics, and that the Pittsburgh Penguins staff was having a viewing party at Console Energy Center with the team’s coach, Dan Bylsma coaching the US team.
Emrick talked about the 3 things that determine tiebreakers in the olympic tournament: head to head match-ups, goal differential, and goals scored. Since Slovakia fell behind so badly, it was more than appropriate for Emrick to bring that up.
A fact that really blew me away from Emrick was when he knew that US winger David Backes had a 4.0 GPA at Minnesota State while majoring in Engineering. Why he knew that, I have no idea, but it’s knowledge like that which makes Emrick so great.
Emrick and Eddie Olczyk have been doing games together for years and their chemistry is evident. They don’t talk over one another and fight to get their words in.
Aside from Emrick, Olczyk and McGuire knew their stuff. Early in the game, Oclzyk pointed out that Slovakia goaltender Jaroslave Halak struggles with elevated shots, but is superb with shots on the ground. It was clear by watching the game the US was trying to go high. Shortly after Oclzyk pointed that out, John Carlson scored on a rising slap shot to give the US its first lead of the game.
After Carlson’s goal, Olczyk could not have done a better job explaining what happened on the play. He was saying how Slovakia failed in their attempt to dump the puck into the US zone. That led to an offensive rush led by Phil Kessel who set up Carlson brilliantly for a one-timer.
Olczyk did a great job of analyzing exactly what happened, which is something the casual fan might not have noticed.
After Tomas Tatar scored for Slovakia in the 2nd period, Pierre McGuire immediately saw the play should have been called back on an offsides. Replay confirmed what McGuire saw and you couldn’t help but be impressed that McGuire was able to catch that so quickly.
On the next offensive rush for Slovakia, they were called for offsides which Emrick comically emphasized. It drew a laugh out of me and it’s always good when the announcers make the viewer laugh.
There’s also a human element when listening to Emrick in action. At one point in the game, he said the wrong name of a player. Emrick then said, “I beg your pardon”, corrected himself, and moved on. He could have easily gotten rattled, but he didn’t allow that to happen.
To improve on Emrick’s performance, I would let the video do more of the talking. For the entire game, he was consistently talking. At times, I almost got a headache trying to keep up with him. It’s against his style, but letting the game breathe more would be something that would make Emrick as good as he is, even better.
There was really nothing here I disliked about the job Emrick did, other than the fact the game was a wash with the US winning 7-1.