It’s difficult for Mike “Doc” Emrick to pick out a favorite call from his hockey broadcasting career of more than 3,750 games in 47 professional seasons, but the first one that came to mind when asked Monday afternoon was from the Olympics.
Emrick remembered his signoff from the 2014 Sochi Winter Games men’s preliminary-round contest the U.S. and Russia, which memorably went to five sudden-death shootout rounds with T.J. Oshie potting the game-winner.
Emrick noted that, 34 years earlier, the U.S. played an even more memorable Olympic game against the Soviet Union — the Miracle on Ice in Lake Placid. After the Sochi game, Emrick asked the producer to get a shot of the crowd leaving the arena.
As the broadcast showed fans leaving the exits, Emrick uttered this line that he repeated Monday.
So many paid their rubles to see the home team win. Not this game. Not tonight.
Emrick borrowed those last five words from 1980 U.S. Olympic coach Herb Brooks, who used them in his pregame speech made famous in the 2004 film “Miracle.”
What made it more special was an interaction that Emrick had with Oshie after returning to the U.S. Emrick asked if it was the most significant thing that happened in Oshie’s life.
No, Oshie said, noting the birth of his first child shortly after he returned from the Games.
“That was awesome,” Emrick said Monday, after announcing his retirement from play-by-play at age 74. “A springboard to another story that I think is far more significant.”
Oshie’s daughter Lyla was born three weeks after the Olympics and needed surgery for a birth defect involving her stomach. Lyla is now 6 years old.
In his Olympic career, Emrick called four of the most five famous gold-medal games of the last 40 years — the Sweden-Canada shootout at Lillehammer 1994, the first women’s final between the U.S. and Canada at Nagano 1998, Sidney Crosby‘s golden goal at Vancouver 2010 and the U.S.-Canada women’s overtime game at Sochi 2014.
Emrick, who also covered water polo at the Summer Olympics, said covering the 1998 U.S. team created his favorite Olympic women’s hockey memories.
“They had never had a major win over Canada — and this time — it was two in a week,” Emrick wrote in an email, noting a come-from-behind win in preliminary play three days before the final. “It was a team coached by Ben Smith, who, when they were presented the Lester Patrick [Trophy the next year] in Boston, said what a lot of coaches have said, ‘The secret to good coaching was to get off the bus with the best players.'”
Emrick, in speaking with reporters for more than an hour, also mentioned a story from working with 1980 U.S. Olympic captain Mike Eruzione in the mid-1980s.
Emrick asked Eruzione what would have happened if he hit the crossbar against the Soviets, rather than scoring the game-winning goal, and the U.S. didn’t win.
“I’m probably painting bridges in Boston with my father,” Eruzione told him.
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