One of the greats - this piece isn't about Doc

I’m quite pleased with myself for working “gets my goat” into a headline today (though I’m not exactly sure where the expression comes from). I was tempted to go with “grinds my gears” as an ode to Peter Griffin, but I dunno….goats, and all that.

Tangent-lede aside, let’s get to this: if you’re like me and watch a lot of hockey, you’ve probably noticed a fiew trends from commentators when they call hockey games. That’s fine, of course – the game is played on a flat, obstacle-free surface, so the same plays are going to happen on repeat over the course of the season.

Still, certain things…get my goat. Below are the three biggest – feel free to add yours in the comments.

Gets my goat:

“He just needed to elevate the puck there.”

The term “elevate” (as opposed to “raise”) bothers me a little, but I guess it’s an attempt to switch things up. But what really pisses me off is the implied simplicity of getting a puck up from in tight. Oh that’s all? He just had to do something completely different? Got it.

Your average hockey player needs the puck to be in pretty much the optimal spot in their stance to get it up, which is somewhere from normal extension to in-tight. Elite players can get it up from almost anywhere, but that “almost” is important. In a deke, you often fully extend yourself to beat a goaltender, which means your only option is on the ice. That’s a decision you make. If you aren’t trying to beat him by going around him, you can decide to not extend as far, know he’s going to be there, and try to get it up over his pad. You can’t do both.

So when a fully-extended player makes a nice deke and a goalie makes a nice save “He just needed to elevate that” drives me nuts. It’s just not an option some times.

Had he just shot that way harder, that would’ve beat the goalie. No kidding.

Gets my goat:

I know most guys in the booth haven’t played in a long time, but there seems to be a distinct inability to differentiate between the types of hits that hurt (player with momentum gets stopped with a flat, dull, deep thud, and stays on his feet), and those that look good (player gets clipped by a moving player, goes down. Or, a player flat against the boards gets knocked off balance).

Basically, highlight-makers and commentators have simplified it to “if the guy goes down, it’s big hit. Guy stays up, not a big hit.”

Some of those Douglas Murray hits that guys stay up on will keep them from going back in his corner next shift. The rattle you to the core, and knock the wind out of you.

Gets my goat:

I realize nobody wants a complete jerk as a commentator, but if you listen to most games these days, nobody in the NHL has ever made a mistake (save for the odd “he probably wants that one back,” which is scathing criticism when it comes to NHL analysis).

You’ll see a goalie desperately out of position reach back and deflect the puck out. Great save. No luck has ever been involved in a top-corner tip. No coach has ever mis-used personnel.

My point is, I know those guys in the booth know more than they say (just ask them off-air and off the record), it’s just safer to be nice to everyone. Because of this, guys who are unafraid to say what they really think - guys like Milbury and Cherry – become ratings gold, and necessary to every telecast. If more guys would just say some negative stuff, we could do away with the blowhards.

I just solved the Mike Milbury-is-on-every-hockey-program problem, you guys. Doc Emrick just needs to be more of a prick!

Comments (24)

  1. “Elite players can get it up from almost anywhere”…

    That’s what she said.

  2. Doc constantly uses the term “knife” – never heard anyone else use that

    “He knifes it into the zone” “He knifed that one along the boards!”

    • Kind of makes you look around the ice for a guy holding his gut and bleeding out doesn’t it?

      I suppose it bothers me because I don’t even know what ‘knifing’ a puck looks like. Closest thing I can think of would be a poke check (kinda similar stabbing motion), but they aren’t common enough for Emerick’s regular use of the word.

  3. “Gets my goat” comes from horse racing. Race horses traditionally have goats as stall mates so that they’ve got a familiar face around in unfamiliar barns. Stealing a horse’s goat would put him off his game, giving a competitor’s horse a better shot.

  4. Emerick also always says “shootiiiinnnnggg!” We use that at work all the time, “Shootiiiiinnngggggg!” It’s hilarious when you’ve got 5 or 6 people all shouting it.

    What gets my goat: mispronounced names. Ugh. Ask if you don’t know.

  5. I can’t watch Leaf games when Bowen is in the booth anymore, wrong names, rambles on and on about old stories during game action, completely misreads play etc etc etc. Time to retire.

  6. The problem is that if a commentator is critical of the team, he will be fired. Just ask Billy Jaffe. Then again, the Islanders aren’t the best when it comes to relationships with personnel

  7. My biggest complaint (especially here in Pittsburgh) is Steigerwald often says so-and-so is the best at something. E.g. “Pascal Dupuis is the best player in the NHL making $1.5M this year”. Max Pacioretty might beg to differ. Chances are there are very few clear-cut “best” players at something in the NHL. Have a little perspective.

    • Steigerwald is very good at declaring guys the “best in the NHL” at random hockey plays. “There is no one in the league better at getting the puck out of the zone, on his backhand, on the penalty kill, down by 2, with 3 minutes left…than Matt Cooke! No one!”

      (slight hyperpole)

  8. 1) Pierre McGuire using the term “monster” to describe everything happening on the ice; 2) Doc Emerick constantly mentioning that Eddie O coached Crosby his rookie year. Yes, WE KNOW! (Eddie O does rock though)

    • Eddie “Distinct Punching Motion” Olczyk?

      “He punches it in, right THERE!”

      “That’s a good goal!”

      One of the funniest moments of last year’s SCF.

  9. Doc’s quirks make him a target sometimes. He used to say “says no” ALL the time when he did Flyers games locally. “Propp tries to gain the zone, but Langway says no.” Funny how Langway rarely said, “Oh, be my guest, Liut LOVES the work.”

    I called a rec game like Doc for about ten minutes once. I don’t know how he keeps going. My voice was dead the rest of the night. Me: “CANNONADING drive… OH a MARVELOUS SAVE by Mark!” (On routine dump-in to goal)

    But you know, a guy like Doc may drive you crazy at time with his verbal tics, but you miss him terribly when he passes the mic along. I poked my share of fun but he was great, and enjoyed hockey, and knew his stuff, and was distinctive instead of bland and forgettable.

  10. Doc will always, always, ALWAYS get a free pass from me for having the balls to just shut the hell up after Crosby scored at the Olympics and let the moment carry itself. While all 85 of the consortium’s talking heads were trying to get their lines in, the NBC feed was beautiful in its simplicity. There’s a reason that’s the version of the game that’s lived in perpetuity on my hard drive.

    That’s great instinct on the part of an announcer – to know when your most powerful call is to just shut up.

  11. What kills me is when Pierre McGuire refers to the goal line as the “icing Line” For a guy who knows hockey like he does you would think he could get the terminology right. It distinctly states goal line in the NHL rule book, in capital letters!!

  12. My #1 complaint is the overuse of “[goalie] just _robbed_ [shooter]!” Of course goalies make loads of athletic stops, but not every great save (or breakaway save or recovery save) is “absolute thievery.” Ugh.

  13. What gets my goat?

    The phrase “compete level”. How about “competitiveness”, or even more simply stated, “effort”?

    In a quasi-related note, any time nouns are used as verbs when a perfectly good verb form of the word already exists, an actual physical “cone of silence” should descend from the rafters over the announcer, resulting in five minutes of announcer silence.

    Announcers complaining about composite sticks “always” breaking, etc. They don’t use wood anymore. Let it go.

    Ed Olczyk doing commentary on Bruins games on NBC. Two things are guaranteed: He will pronounce “Lucic” wrong every time, and at least once in the game he’ll wheel out his well-worn chestnut that “Tim Thomas plays too far out of the crease, make a lateral pass or bounce it off the endboards and you’ll score easy”. Thomas has won two Vezinas, a Conn Smythe, and a Stanley Cup in the time since Edzo last held a coaching job. Just saying.

    Bob Beers doing commentary on Bruins games on the radio. Because you see, Bob, this is radio, not TV, so we can’t actually see what’s happening, we are entirely dependent on the voices on the radio telling us what’s happening. So it’s slightly annoying when we can hear skates and sticks and pucks making hockey-like sounds in the background, strongly suggesting to us that hockey is being played, but Dave Goucher can’t do his job and describe what’s happening because you’re too busy giving us 45 seconds of pearls of wisdom about something that already happened. Save it for after the whistle. Guys like Beers serve as a good argument for only having one guy in the booth on radio broadcasts.

    Doc Emrick doing anything, alas. His voice just wears on me. Fifteen years ago in college I had a job a sporting goods chain. TVs in the store played the same video on an endless loop, and we had to play whatever tape the head office sent. For a while it was a Devils championship video. Hearing that on an endless loop, hour after hour, day after day, shift after shift… It ingrained in me two strong aversions: The song “Running With The Devil” by Van Halen, and Doc Emrick.

    All announcers for all teams everywhere. Well, maybe that’s a bit much, but if years of XM in the car and NHL Center Ice on the TV at home have taught me nothing else, it’s that ALL TEAMS’ ANNOUNCERS ARE GOD-AWFUL HOMERS. All of them. There’s no ‘moral high ground’ for any fans on this one. Sometimes it can be fun on Center Ice to switch back and forth between the two teams’ feeds, just to see how much cognitive dissonance you induce. Team A announcer: “That was just complete headhunting, there’s no place in the sport for that”. Flip the channel, Team B announcer: “That’s a just a strong hockey play, I don’t know why the refs aren’t letting them just play the game tonight”. And as if the homerism wasn’t enough, so many announcers feel the need to have a shtick. Ugh. Be smart, be insightful, be distinctive even, but please don’t be a self-parodying clown. From Mike Lange declaring all opposing goalies beaten like rented mules to Rick Jeanneret’s lame catchphrases to Dave Mishkin turing into a 13 year old girl at a Justin Bieber concert when Tampa scores to Jack Edwards just being plain old certifiably batshit insane, it’s all so tiresome…

    • You hammered a fistful of nails on the head here, Dr. Nick. But while I admit to playing the Center Ice Home/Visitor Switcheroony Game every now and again, I have to disagree that ALL the announcers are homers. MOST of them are, but not ALL of them. The good ones don’t hide their biases, but they also make an effort to laud opposing players when warranted even if it makes their guys look bad. My personal favorites:

      1) Randy & Drew (Sharks) – These two are far and away the best of the lot and the only reason I watch Sharks games, quite frankly. Now, Drew recently made headlines for his “Jane, you ignorant slut” remarks directed at Comcast’s Ray Ratto (, ferociously defending the Sharks like they were his first-born preemie octuplets. He definitely sounded like a homer, but his remarks were passionate and truthful, and viewers generally didn’t hold this outburst against him because he doesn’t make a habit of being an on-air jackass. Most of the time, he and Randy keep it real with back-and-forths about Lucky Charms/going commando; the Mitchell Brothers (Willie & Torrey but mostly the SF stripper moguls); and the McDonald’s Telestrator (“C’mon – most people don’t buy Happy Meals for the apple slices!”) money just can’t buy, especially in the sports world. Drew is also scathingly critical of the Sharks when necessary and appropriate. I despise the Sharks but I love listening to these two do their thing.

      2) Pete & Terry (Predators) – Randy & Drew for the Ensure set. They’re definitely several years older than dirt but they’re hysterical, sharp and they get their facts straight without going all Pierre McGuire on you. At least 90% of their references are lost on viewers who are younger than 50, but that makes it even funnier. Imagine Statler & Waldorf from the Muppets calling the SC Playoffs. Awesome.

      3) Joe & Craig (CapiTOOLs) – Yet another quirky odd couple who are excited but don’t overdo the homer act. I particularly enjoy the contrast between raspy Joe and Craig’s snide. They don’t sound like they enjoy giving props to the other side, but they’ll give it up.

      4) Steigerwald & Errey (Pens) – Borderline batshit, but overall fun. They know their shit and will praise home and visitor players besides the Two Headed Monster. Trust.

      I prefer watching the local guys over the nationally-televised gang (especially in the US – Canada’s national crews are more clinical, but much better). The NBC lot is annoying and not especially interesting or insightful. Sigh – not looking forward to NBC’s exclusive playoff coverage coming up… I agree with Justin that if more of them would just speak their minds, the blowhard factor would diminish somewhat. Thank you for this post!

  14. Doc Emerick is already a prick. He has bad mouthed and made snide comments about the Coyotes, during the last 2 years in the playoffs.

    I used to respect him. Not now.

  15. I’m signing up here to voice my disdain for Emerick. Honestly, you could make a drinking game out of “WHEEEEEEEEELLLLLLS it around the boards.” Or some of the other comments previously mentioned. The fact that this guy has graduated from the Devils, and is now a national broadcast mainstay sickens me. I think I may have to mute the TV when watching the playoffs. Between him and Mike Pillsbury who single handedly DESTROYED the Islanders franchise (this from a Ranger fan, BTW), I don’t know who is worse. Pierre between the glass is completely useless… I digress. I hate “Doc” and his nasal, over-exuberant voice.

  16. Pierre McGuire telling me where EVERY player played Junior or College. Yes, Pierre, we have, too.

  17. I can’t imagine any sport having a worst commentator than Joe Bowan. Holy Makanov, he sucks!

  18. Doc drives me nuts when he always says “A Forearm Shiver”… WTF? I have played hockey and coached for years (Minny, Ontario, and West Coast) and have never heard that except from Doc. Is this a Jersey thing?

    To me, with that terminology, the Doc makes a normal hit sound brutish, and I think that misreps the game to people who just tune in for the SC Playoffs.

  19. Ah, Danny Gallivan, Bill and Foster Hewitt….

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