Evan Pivnick called it “unbelievable,” “really fun,” “cool” and assorted other superlatives appropriate to the circumstances.
After all, Saturday afternoon the Oceanside High alumnus, Bowling Green senior and aspiring professional hockey play-by-play man will work a game with Doc Emrick, the preeminent American hockey announcer of this century.
To translate for non-hockey fans, it would be the rough equivalent of a Fordham undergrad calling a Fordham baseball game with Vin Scully, or a Syracuse undergrad calling a Syracuse basketball game with Marv Albert.
“I called my dad after I found out and told him about it,” Pivnick said. “That’s kind of when it sank in that I’m going to call a game with THE guy when it comes to broadcasting hockey. I’m extremely excited about it.”
The occasion is the 50th anniversary of Bowling Green’s Slater Family Ice Arena, for which Emrick and other hockey-related alumni will return for a game against Mercyhurst. Pivnick will call the first and third periods, with Emrick as his color commentator; Emrick will call the second.
What Pivnick found most impressive in the leadup to the event is that Emrick’s passion for both the game and his work translated even to a one-night college hockey gig.
When he first received a text from Emrick, he thought someone was playing a joke. But it was real; Emrick wanted to go over pronunciations of the players’ names.
“This was more than a month away from the game,” Pivnick said. “That’s why I thought someone was messing with me.” Emrick soon was on the phone, and the two spoke for 40 minutes.
“He apologized for taking my time,” Pivnick said. “He asked if it’s OK if we do this or that on the broadcast. I was thinking, but didn’t say to him, ‘You’re the one in the [United States] Hockey Hall of Fame. You can kick me out of the booth if you want.’
“It’s just the way he prepares. He’s been sending me the full pronunciations for Mercyhurst, the lines that they’ve been rolling for the past four games.”
Emrick, 70, laughed when informed how surprised and impressed Pivnick was about his Mercyhurst research. He said he called the school’s sports information director this week.
“I wanted to hear him say the games,” Emrick said Thursday on his way to a pizza dinner with Pivnick and others after speaking to students at Bowling Green.
“You can easily say, well, there aren’t going to be [many] people who listen. But these days people can listen in Sweden [on the Internet]. And he’s going to school, first of all, and he had another series to do last weekend. So I did a little advance work. I’m glad he appreciated it.”
Emrick received a PhD in Radio/TV at Bowling Green, which is how Mike Emrick came to be “Doc.” It was there that he first called a game for an audience — the second period of a November, 1971, game between Bowling Green and Ryerson.
The rest is hockey broadcasting history. He is NBC’s lead play-by-play voice and is widely admired both for his work and his upbeat personality and dedication to the sport.
NBC allowed Emrick to work a game Wednesday rather than Sunday this week, enabling him to be there for the anniversary event. In addition to helping call the game, he will interview fellow hockey alumni, such as Nelson Emerson, Rob Blake and George McPhee.
The broadcast can be heard online at BGSUFalcons.com.
Pivnick has been Bowling Green’s radio voice for three years. But his first hockey play-by-play work came earlier, when he called an Oceanside vs. Bellmore/Merrick game at Long Beach Ice Arena for MSG Varsity as a high school junior.
He chose Bowling Green for its sports broadcasting department, its hockey history and, “mainly, I saw that Doc Emrick went to Bowling Green,” he said. “That’s one of the guys that catches your eyes.”
On Saturday, they will be colleagues.
“I’m glad he is [excited], because it’s exciting for me,” Emrick said. “I don’t know how much I’ll sleep the night before, because I want to do a good job working with him.”