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Komets at Kalamazoo
Faceoff: 7:30 p.m.
Radio: WOWO, 1190-AM
About a minute after signing off his postgame show, Komets announcer Bob Chase's daughter Karin called from Colorado.
``Dad, Vic and I were going out to eat, but we couldn't leave until it was over because you guys were having so much fun,'' she said. ``Was that ever something!'''
``I got her approval,'' Chase said with a more energetic grin than an 86-year-old should have at 11 p.m. after a long day.
Anyone who listened to Friday's 5-2 Fort Wayne win over Evansville approved as Chase shared the booth with regular color man Robbie Irons and America's voice of hockey Mike Emrick from NBC. Though Chase has been defining hockey radio broadcasts for 60 years and Emrick on the television side for 40, this was the first game they described together.
When the Lafontaine-native Emrick started his career as a teenager, he'd sit in a Memorial Coliseum corner talking into a tape recorder. A few years later he shared some of his recordings with Chase at WOWO, and that relationship grew into a gift for the sport they love. Emrick has taken Chase's passion and dedication to the world's stage and then refined it to his own level of grace and precision.
No mentor could be more approving, no student more respectful. Putting them together for one game, they exceeded even a perfectionist's expectations. The trio had fun calling the game, and that helped make sure everyone listening did, too, even a good part of the 7,707 Memorial Coliseum fans who had radios or smartphones.
``That was the objective,'' Emrick said. ``Sometimes when you have the idea, `We're just going to have fun,' then all of a sudden something happens and you all of a sudden forget that. Fortunately, I don't think that happened tonight. We're pleased if people had a good time.''
How could they help it? That was guaranteed by the preparation Emrick and Chase built for 2 1/2 hours at the morning skate. As Emrick quizzed every stick boy and player, they all looked like they were 10 years old and meeting Santa Claus.
``It was a big thrill for a lot of guys,'' Komets coach Al Sims said. ``Even some of the guys from the American League had to come to Fort Wayne to meet Mike Emrick. It was a pretty neat thing.''
And though forgetting about the broadcasters as soon as the opening faceoff fell to the ice, the Komets were determined to win maybe a little more than usual. It's the only time they'll ever have the world's best announcer call a game they were playing in, after all. Emrick has called Olympics, National Hockey League All-Star Games, World Cups, Stanley Cup Finals and now a Komets game. To the players, this time the broadcaster added to the prestige of the event and raised their level.
``Any time Mike Emrick is broadcasting your game, you want to make a good impression,'' forward Kaleigh Schrock said. ``He knew more about me than I knew about myself. To have him with Chaser, that was a real honor to play in that game.''
The broadcast itself wasn't perfect. It was better than that. Squeezing into the small home radio booth that was built for two people, the trio eventually forgot they were trying to fit in and around each other and just called the game. Without consciously realizing it, they did what they do better than anyone. The laughs flowed with the game.
At one point, Emrick remarked that it has been at least 10 years since he called a game on radio, which is much different than describing the action on television.
``You have a lot of right-wing boards and left boards and near corner and far corner that you don't say on television,'' he said. ``If you get paid by the word, and I hope Bob does, you earn double the money in radio.''
There were also some classic Emrick calls. Any rust from the NHL lockout was scraped away like a goaltender scratching up his crease before the national anthem or a first-period facewash in the corner.
``Some discouraging words there from Henley in the face of Aaron Gens.''
A late second-period post-whistle group shoving match was described ``A little extra from Rizk and a crowd will gather at the horn!''
Adding Emrick's descriptions to Chase's enthusiasm and Irons' explanations was about as perfect as a minor league game could hope to be called. They less they tried, the better the game became to anyone listening, and it was a pretty good game to see anyway as the Komets won their fifth in row.
``It's another highlight for the year 2012,'' said Chase, who recently received the Lester Patrick Award for service to hockey in the Untied States. ``I don't know what goes on next. I hope like hell Santa Claus remembers me. Like I said in my wrap, in my fondest dreams I never realized this could happen. I never even dreamt of it happening until now.''
Best of all? It sounded like a dream, too, one that every listener will always remember.