One thing I love about watching hockey from home (other than my 42″ LCD TV and Hi-Def “Center Ice” package) is the play calling. Whether sitting high above the rink or low along the boards, the ambiance of the arenas is enjoyable.
However, there’s nothing like the excitement brought to the game by good old play-by-play calling professionals. So, here in the relative silence of the off-season, I have decided to rank who I believe to be the five best of the current NHL TV broadcasters.
#5 Ken Daniels
“The Datstukian Deke” – what a lucky guy Mr. Daniels is, huh? I mean, he gets to call plays sitting next to perhaps one of the most hilarious (if not 3rd period inebriate) Mickey Redmond. It’s amazing how well he keeps his composure next to the former Red Wing player. When I watch Wings games, I am laughing hysterically after each of Redmond’s He’s also on hand for some of the most spectacular plays in the league given the star-studded, high-flying Red Wing roster. I’m sure he’s eager to return to the booth after the resigning of future Hall-of-Famer Nicklas Lidstrom. Daniels also recently won Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association’s Ty Tyson award for his excellence in sports broadcasting. Way to go Kenny!
Nickname guru, and outlandish play caller, Rick “RJ” Jeanneret, got his first crack at NHL broadcasting in October of 1971. And, he hasn’t looked back since! Making calls and calling names all along the way, RJ has talked his way into the hearts of all the Sabres faithful. He is slowly cutting back on his broadcasting responsibilities. However, we will always remember his exciting commentary and ability to turn seemingly innocuous plays into memorable occasions – reference the Brad May goal earning the title “May Day” in the video linked to his name. RJ is a beloved member of Sabres Nation, and the television audience will surely relish each moment remaining left with the legendary voice.
#3 Joe Beninati
Now this man was born to call the game, and boy can he call it! Each time I turn a Caps game on, I am always drawn immediately into the game by his terrific skill to articulate exactly what I am seeing happen on the screen. If you’ve never heard him call a game, then I’m sure you’ve been very confused by his feature in the hockey Geico commercial on Versus. No one said he could act! He has been awarded for his talents receiving the Capital Region Emmy Award four times since coming to the NHL’s broadcasting realm.
I think it’s amazing that there seems to be a constant flow of talented athletes, coaches, and commentators for our beloved sport. I don’t particular care who he calls for, and I don’t have to be a fan of the Caps just to enjoy this talented broadcaster. So, Bolts fans, if you’re watching our boys play the Caps, and feel a little interested in hearing this future legend… go ahead and change the channel.
#2 Jim Hughson
“Great save, Luongo!” This seems to be the phrase Canucks fans the world over wish they would’ve heard a bit more frequently this past season’s Stanley Cup Final. They’ll surely hear it plenty as Mr. Hughson continues to cover the latest Western Conference champions. Having won Canada’s broadcasting industry Gemini Award five times for being the best sports play-by-play analyst, Hughson has been a stellar announcer for Vancouver and the CBC. Three years into a six-year contract with CBC, Hughson has been the primary play-by-play announcer for the Stanley Cup playoffs and finals for Hockey Night In Canada. He was also featured as the secondary hockey play caller during the 2006 Winter Olympics. Great voice, and engaging character makes this guy a solid top pick for me.
#1 Mike Emrick
“Doc” Emrick is a great man, and an even better game caller. My blood pressure is still coming down since watching the 2008 & 2009 Stanley Cup Finals between Detroit and Pittsburgh. I don’t care who you are or what team you like, but those two series were 100x more exciting than they would have been without Mike Emrick.
His witty references to equipment and events is uncanny, and his work ethic is remarkable. Emrick is 65 years old, and he still won’t call it quits entirely. He has called games professionally since 1973 when he began covering the Port Huron Flags, and covered the New Jersey Devils from 1982-2011. Now, he won’t be calling all the games for New Jersey, but he will still be working hard for NBC and Versus.
Emrick has been awarded the Lester Patrick Trophy for outstanding service to hockey in the United States, the New York Emmy Award for all his work as the Devils announcer, the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award for his outstanding contributions to hockey broadcasting, and most recently the Emmy for “Outstanding Sports Personality – Play by Play” in 2011.
But, most important to me is his mesmerizing play calling that keeps me looking forward to NBC’s Game of the Week! Better enjoy the remaining time we have available to hear this epic play caller in action. Because, soon we’ll all be scrambling to find him on Youtube so our kids can get a chance to hear his verbal mastery!
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