Another hockey book review today as the Stanley Cup finals are being played, so the sport is foremost on my mind right now - even if it is the time teams are usually in training camp, not playing for the best trophy in sports. American hockey fans know the voice of Mike "Doc" Emrick well and he has written a memoir due out in October. Here is my review of his book.
“Off Mike: How a Kid from Basketball-Crazy Indiana Became America's Hockey Voice" by Mike Emrick with Kevin Allen
Ice Hockey, professional, broadcasting, memoir
October 20, 2020
5 of 5 stars (excellent)
During a four decade career that spanned from the Port Huron Flags of the International Hockey League to being the lead voice of American telecasts of the Stanley Cup playoffs, Mike "Doc" Emrick has lived a charmed life. One aspect of his telecasts that has made him popular with American hockey fans is his storytelling skill and that characteristic is on full display in this memoir co-written with Kevin Allen.
Even though he grew up in Indiana, basketball wasn't really a big deal in Emrick's childhood. He shares his love of baseball, both playing and listening to the Pittsburgh Pirates games as his radio picked up their station. But when his father took him to a minor league hockey game, that set the wheels in motion for a different sport which he could love.
While Emrick's story of his rise through the hockey broadcasting ranks doesn't sound very different than that of other broadcasters who have done work for NHL games, the manner in which he tells that story and what happened at every stop along the way makes for wonderful reading. Fellow hockey fans who have heard Emrick broadcasts will hear his voice while reading this as the stories are just as entertaining on the page as they are on the air when he peppers his call of the hockey game being televised with similar stories.
It is clear from these stories that Emrick is a people person as he not only shares stories about the many people with whom he has worked or worked for, but also gives every single one of them credit for his success when he was employed with or for them. Whether the story was about his first salary negotiation that he didn't handle so well, his gratitude to people like Flyers owner Ed Snider (his first NHL job was due to Snider's backing) and current partner in the NBC broadcast booth Ed Olcyzk, readers will enjoy learning about the people who are important to him.
While there are stories about his personal life, they are not too long in comparison to his hockey stories. The reader will learn how he met and courted his wife Joyce, their love for animals and his recovery from prostate cancer. While not as numerous or long, these stories are just as heartfelt. One particular touching story is the one in which Emrick declined broadcasting for NBC in the 2002 Winter Olympics in order to be with Joyce and Katie – Katie being their three year old dog who had kidney issues and had to be eventually put down. It was touching to read not only his love for his dog, but the support he received from the hockey world when they learned of Katie's death.
There are just so many great tales in this book. From his interview with Wayne Gretzky where Gretzky uttered his famous "Mickey Mouse organization" quote about the New Jersey Devils, Emrick's employer at the time, to the day he spent with Detroit Tigers broadcasting legend Ernie Harwell when preparing his master's dissertation, any hockey fan will love to read about Emrick's wonderful career in the sport.
I wish to thank Triumph Books for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
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