Back in mid-July, legendary broadcaster and New Jersey Devils legend Dr. Mike Emrick publicly announced that he would no longer be the play-by-play commentator for the Devils and MSG. He has joined NBC/VERSUS to do play-by-play exclusively. This left an opening for the Devils' television broadcast. Yesterday, it was revealed by Tom Gulitti on Twitter and Phil Mushnick's Friday article in the NY Post (via this thread at HF Boards) that it Doc's replacement will be Steve Cangialosi for this season as the play-by-play commentator for Devils games. An official announcement will be made in the near future.
The initial reaction is mixed, to put it nicely. For example, the initial comments in this Fanshot relaying the news by user Jimspires9 are good examples of how Devils fans feel about Steve Cagialosi. I can understand that fans are nonplussed that the guy who has to fill in Doc Emrick's position is the guy who struggles with pronouncing "score" much less touch Doc's style of calling a game. I'll admit I'm not exactly looking forward to hearing "Shot - SCARRRR!" for as many as 41 games. That said, he's a good - possibly the best - replacement for several reasons.
First: he's familiar. Cangialosi has filled in for Doc for play-by-play duties on television in recent seasons when Doc was sick or working a national broadcast. Many fans know his voice, his tendencies, and some of his quirks (SCARRRRRR). There isn't going to be any mystery surrounding what viewers will hear when they watch the Devils game on TV. There isn't going to be any dashed hopes of how the replacement will do. You know what you're going to get with Cangialosi at the microphone.
Second: he has plenty of play-by-play experience. I didn't know that Cangialosi was in the business for quite awhile until I read his profile at MSG. He's been in broadcasting for over 20 years. In reading the profile, you'll learn Cangialosi has quite a bit of range based on his past jobs from doing specials, sportscasting, hosting shows, and reporting. On top of this, he's the regular play-by-play commentator for the New York Red Bulls. While they are different sports and teams, he's experienced enough as a play-by-play person to know what such a role entails on a regular basis. I don't know enough about the broadcasting world to know whether such experienced people are commonly available; but it's clear that MSG isn't throwing someone new into the fire. At a minimum, we'll know that Cangialosi will be professional in his new role with the Devils broadcast.
Third, and the most important reason, Devils fans aren't big fans of him. That sounds like a strange reason, but it actually helps Cangialosi and the broadcast. Let's step back a bit. Doc is a legend, and I believe he's The Voice of the New Jersey Devils. Doc is the pinnacle of a play-by-play commentator: he calls the action; he doesn't drone you to death by repeating the same phrases over and over; he gets legitimately excited when exciting things are happening or just happened; and he didn't dominate the game. He called the game as it was, and how he did it made it worth keeping the volume up when watching the game. Doc, in my view, was the best and I don't think I'm stretching in saying that many Devils fans feel the same way.
When a legend leaves their role, the replacement is rarely going to fit in without being in the shadow of that legend. Whatever they do will be compared to the legend - fairly or (as usual) unfairly. Steve Cangialosi cannot possibly measure up to Doc. I think he knows that and MSG knows that. This is how the fans' dislike of this news or Cangialosi style helps him out here. Again, many Devils fans are familiar with Cangialosi from his work filling in for Doc or the Red Bulls or the many other jobs he's held in the past. Therefore, very few Devils fans will honestly expect him to be as good as Doc. That's usually the rub: we can consciously say how we know X can't be as good as legend Y, but in the back of our minds, we cannot help but do this. This is not one of those cases because fans weren't fans of Cangialosi even on a replacement basis. Those who dislike him enough may not even be listening; but they won't be disappointed by someone completely new letting them down. Therefore, I don't think there should be an increase of pressure for Cangialosi to prove himself those viewing the game. Fans aren't going to dislike Cangialosi because he isn't Doc, but on his own merits - of which he has many from his broadcasting experience.
At worst, Steve Cangialosi will be a buffer as a play-by-play commentator. He will do the job for a little while such that a future broadcaster isn't going into the position completely in Doc's shadow. At best, Cangialosi will enjoy a long tenure as the play-by-play guy and will be judged on his own terms. He wouldn't be replacing Doc as so much following him. I don't know how likely that will happen, but it's not impossible. A good first step for that would be making sure "score" replaces "scar." I don't know how the decision process went at MSG to know who else was considered for the job to say he was the best choice in replacement; but it could be for the listed reasons.
If you're not familiar with Steve Cangialosi's work as a play-by-play commentator at all, then you may want to check out tonight's Red Bulls game at 7:30 PM on MSG+ to hear him in action (and go to Once A Metro if you want to talk about it). I think he's better at calling soccer than hockey due to the slower nature of soccer, but that's just a personal preference. Assuming you haven't, what do you think of Steve Cangialosi replacing Doc Emrick as the play-by-play commentator for Devils games next season? What do you think of Cangialosi's style of calling a game? Do you plan on giving him a chance, or are you planning to have your mute button ready when you watch a Devils game? Please leave your answers and other thoughts in the comments. Thanks for reading.