Hall of Famer Mike “Doc” Emrick announced his retirement last week after 40 years of calling NHL games for the Philadelphia Flyers, New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers, ESPN/ABC, Fox Sports, and most recently, NBC Sports. He broadcast all or part of 22 Stanley Cup Finals, including the last 15 as the lead announcer for NBC.
With Emrick having called most of the major hockey events on American television in the last decade and a half, filling his shoes will be a challenge. But the show must go on, and NBC has plenty of talented internal options who are capable of sliding into the lead chair.
Five other play-by-play announcers presided over the mic for NBC in the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs.
From my perspective, these are the pros and cons of these five candidates as well as the likelihood that they will be handed the keys, by ranking them from most likely to least likely. Not included here is Chris Cuthbert, who left his role with NBC before the playoffs to join Sportsnet in his home country of Canada, where he will either take over or split the top job on Hockey Night in Canada.
It should be mentioned that NBC’s exclusive deal with the NHL expires after the 2020–21 season. Although it appears likely that the network will keep at least the lion’s share of the American television rights in the next deal, it is possible that whichever announcer takes over will only have the job for one year.
Here is the list, with the broadcasters listed in alphabetical order:
Pros: Albert is the only person on this list who has called the Stanley Cup Final before. He filled in for Emrick on a Final game in 2014 and has called seven Cup Finals for Westwood One Radio. It would be a natural progression for the longtime New York Rangers’ radio voice, who has been calling games nationally since his mid-20s and has plenty of big-game experience in multiple sports.
Cons: Albert has a long association with Fox Sports, where he continues to call a regular NFL schedule. If NBC and Fox end up splitting the NHL package, Fox would likely bring him over, and NBC would be left searching for a new lead voice.
Likelihood: Albert is the favorite, but he is by no means a guarantee. If he is not made the lead voice of NBC’s coverage, he will continue to call the Stanley Cup Final for Westwood One. (Side note: if Albert moves to the lead chair for NBC, I expect either Brendan Burke, Alex Faust, or Dave Goucher to succeed him as Westwood One’s #1 NHL announcer.)
Pros: Burke is young, 36, and his role at NBC has increased every year since he started working for them in the 2017 playoffs. The television voice of the New York Islanders is stylistically very similar to his idol Emrick. He has experience calling college football and basketball as well as pro lacrosse nationally, and the network may want someone they can build up as a future multi-sport voice.
Cons: Burke has only called NHL games regularly for four seasons, and never beyond the second round of the playoffs. He’s not very well-known to the casual viewer at this point.
Likelihood: Burke’s time will come and he’s due for a well-deserved increased role on NBC this coming season. but I don’t think he will be placed in the driver’s seat just yet.
Pros: Forslund left the Carolina Hurricanes broadcast team this summer and now appears set to work for NBC exclusively for the time being. He still may take another local job, but wherever he goes, NBC will come first. With his increased visibility this past decade, he’s become a popular announcer among American hockey fans and has called games all the way up to the conference finals.
Cons: At 58, Forslund is the oldest of the five candidates listed here. He’s not a huge name outside of the hockey world, and doesn’t regularly call other sports.
Likelihood: I think Forslund has a good possibility of landing in the top chair. NBC could get Forslund exclusively to itself and that should help his chances.
Pros: Miller is very popular on both sides of the border and has made a name for himself as the voice of big international hockey events on Canadian television. Naming Miller the lead broadcaster would likely prevent ESPN, which owns part of his Canadian employer, TSN, from trying to take him away if the two networks split the next package.
Cons: In the short term, the Toronto-based Miller may have to choose between TSN and NBC if the border remains closed. He calls some CFL games but has not been a multi-sport announcer in the States.
Likelihood: I don’t really see it. Miller’s a great hockey caller, but he has a greater role in his home country and I don’t see him giving that up or lessening his workload. The lead CFL job on TSN’s exclusive coverage is open too.
Pros: Tirico has become the face of NBC Sports since his hiring in 2016, and placing him on hockey, a sport he can capably call, would give every NHL game he’s on a big-game feel. He has proven to be pretty popular among hockey fans and has good chemistry with top analysts Eddie Olczyk and Brian Boucher.
Cons: Tirico only has called a handful of games since joining NBC’s NHL rotation in 2019, and never beyond the first round of the playoffs. He also would miss huge chunks of the regular season and early playoffs with his other commitments.
Likelihood: It’s certainly possible that Tirico becomes the lead NHL voice on NBC, but I think it’s more likely that Tirico’s role on the Stanley Cup Final is that of a studio host, which is what he did for the 2018 and 2019 Cup Finals.
Ranking of likelihood to get the job: