Mike "Doc" Emrick said he made his decision to retire from broadcasting when he looked out the window of his home this summer and saw a new path for what he called the "autumn" of his years.
"I am not sure what you see through the windows where you are," he said on a conference call with reporters on Monday, "but in Michigan we have the height of fall with great color today, and that’s where I think we at the Emrick house are, humans and creatures.
"Not as young as we were, but we are in a great place right now, and able to enjoy this time in our collective lives, so for the first time since that first ‘70-71 season back in Pittsburgh, I won’t be putting game dates on a calendar anymore."
That was his poetic way of leaving his job as the preeminent voice of hockey in the United States, including 22 Stanley Cup Finals, the past 15 for NBC Sports.
Emrick, 74, called the recent Lightning-Stars Final from a home studio, having chosen not to travel to the NHL’s COVID-19 "bubbles" in Toronto and Edmonton owing to his age and a cancer scare in the early 1990s.
He said he decided in the middle of the delayed playoffs that he would retire, ready to focus with his wife, Joyce, on other things, notably their devotion to the welfare of pets and other animals.
Emrick said proceeds from his book, "Off Mike," due out Tuesday, will go toward causes to help animals.
"It seemed like it was time," he said. "I guess 50 [years] was a round number in covering the league."
Emrick began his count with the ’70-71 Penguins, whom he covered for the Beaver County Times. It was not long after that he traded in his typewriter for a microphone.
Monday’s call featured several prominent guests who dropped by to convey their thanks and appreciation.
Emrick’s NBC analyst partner, Ed Olczyk, got choked up. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman called him a "treasure." NBC colleague Al Michaels compared his importance to the NHL to that of TV analyst John Madden to the NFL.
Islanders president Lou Lamoriello, who was with the Devils during Emrick’s long run with that team, said, "There is no one in this world that I’ve crossed paths with that didn’t not only like you but respected you to the highest level."
NBC did not announce a successor for its No. 1 team. Kenny Albert figures to be a strong candidate, having been a regular in the conference finals.
Emrick said he does not have a favorite career call, but he did recount one he was proud of from the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, where T.J. Oshie scored on four of six shootout chances for Team USA in a victory over Russia.
Over a shot of fans leaving the rink, he recalled saying, "They paid their rubles to see the home team win, but not this game, not tonight."
It was an echo of a phrase coach Herb Brooks used before Team USA beat the Soviet Union in Lake Placid in 1980, the sort of historical reference Emrick relishes.
Such details endeared him to avid fans of the sport at the same time his enthusiastic, cleverly worded calls engaged casual ones.
For a time on Monday, #ThankYouDoc was the No. 1 trending Twitter topic in the United States.
Asked how he hopes to be remembered by fans, Emrick said, "I hope with a smile on their faces and with an appreciation for the sport as a result of that."