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What Prayer Can Do: On Air

Sportscaster Mike Emrick shares an inspiring story about one of his best on-air moments.

Broadcaster Mike "Doc" Emrick

There I was in the TV booth at Madison Square Garden minutes before hockey legend Wayne Gretzky’s final game, about to face my biggest challenge. You would think that after 26 seasons doing play-by-play for hockey games, I would be used to speaking on camera. Ordinarily I am. But today my broadcast partner would be down on the ice emceeing the pregame ceremony.

I was all on my own. I would have to open the game by myself live before several million people who would be watching this historic event on national television. I had to fill 50 long seconds of airtime before the ceremony began; to me, that seemed like an eternity. I’ve never done a game of this magnitude before. What will I say?

I went over the lineups and player bios. Did I have every detail down? I flipped open my hockey notebook for a final check. There on the first page was a prayer by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale that I had copied down long ago. Lord, sometimes our problems are too hard to handle. But you will let us know what to do and how to do it. Let us be troubled no more.

The lights came up for the ceremony. A hush fell over the crowd. I took my spot in front of the camera. “You’re on,” the director said.

I took a deep breath and began, “Hi, everyone. I’m Mike Emrick.” Suddenly the words flowed effortlessly. “If you’re a hockey fan, just bring your best memories of Wayne Gretzky. If you’re not, we’ll tell you he’s the most productive hockey player ever and he’s a better person than a player….”

Later I was nominated for a Sports Emmy for play-by-play. The first sequence on the tape the network submitted to the nominating committee? You guessed it. Those 50 seconds before the puck dropped for Wayne Gretzky’s last game when my words felt truly inspired.

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