A Sit Down With Legendary Doc Emrick-Hockey Community and Culture

by Jesse Height & Emma Adams

The relationship between hockey and cities in the Northern United States is a warm one, though the winters can be some of the coldest. Skids, scrapes, and slapshots can be heard in ice rinks and on ponds throughout the region.

The Kalkaska Battlers are the newest addition to the Michigan Independence Hockey League, and the team’s identity comes from a passion for the game and support from their community. Michigan understands and loves the sport, which translates into a healthy hockey culture for fans and players alike. The Battlers consist of gritty guys who not only know how to check, but also have the grace and skill to go top shelf in the final seconds when the game is on the line. Many have played at the collegiate level, and most plan to play the season in addition to working a full time job. These guys pack a lunchbox. They have a passion for hockey, and so do their fans.

Doc Emrick is a retired play by play announcer known for his dynamic brand of hockey commentary. He was awarded the National Hockey League’s Lester Patrick Trophy in 2004 and was later inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame earlier this year. Doc has called games throughout the world, including on the Olympic stage, and has a deep understanding of the approach many players take to the game as well as the way it is played.

“The players are there to entertain people and because they enjoy playing. Some of them are trying to graduate to a league with a higher classification. Each player has a goal in mind about their individual future. Hockey is a sport, above all, that requires depth of team. Every player is important. They are all going to have to contribute to the success of the team.”

Andrew Dibble, the team’s owner, observes a connection between the teams in the MIHL and the communities they live and compete in.

“It is exciting to watch hockey played by people in the local area because it gives us something to support. There is an incredibly good chance that if someone is at our level, they have been playing for quite some time. You get teachers, parents, and friends that have been watching a guy develop as a hockey player and reach a higher level. They are rooting them on. It is an incredibly proud feeling when you watch someone you grew up with make it to a higher level of hockey. It comes down to a sense of pride in community.”

Native to Naples, Florida, team captain and number 44 Sean Doyle sees the excitement in Kalkaska growing around the team and the players on the ice.

“Hockey is a unique sport because it encompasses a lot of aspects that are appealing in other sports. It is fast paced, physical, graceful, and exciting. Skating on ice is interesting and shows skills. The community aspect gives them something to cheer for and gives them pride.”

Although hockey fans in Kalkaska are still getting to know their new team, it is fortunately full of familiar faces in addition to new friends taking their shots and skating up and down the ice. The Battlers plan to introduce themselves to the rival Waterford Sharks at 7pm on November 4th at the Kaliseum Recreation Complex.