Hey, I’ve never been quite as big a Bob Cole guy as a lot of Canadian hockey fans, but I respect what he has done in the game of hockey over the past 40 or so years.
He managed to break through the “Hewitt” broadcasting logjam back in the early 1970s (with the support of Foster, hockey’s broadcasting patriarch) and eventually wind his way into the Hockey Night in
gig as the lead Maple Leaf TV announcer in the early ‘80s. Canada
(A fun fact: not everyone knows that while Foster Hewitt was handling the much higher-profile television coverage play-by-play of the legendary Summit Series in the fall of 1972, Cole, a young guy out of Newfoundland at the time, was handling the same job for CBC Radio…)
In any event, while the stylish Danny Gallivan (click to see an earlier column of Danny and Foster...) was my favorite all-time hockey play-by-play guy on the TV side, Cole has earned his spot in people’s hearts as not only a familiar voice, but a guy who knows the game so well that he also knows how to rise to the tempo of the game. He can hit the right notes at the right moments, as it were, and thus make big moments just that, in our minds and our memories.
A quick aside: I’ll always remember the 1975-’76 “Tour” by the two big Soviet club teams in those days, Soviet Wings and the Central Red Army. Red Army played that classic 3-3 tie on New Year’s Eve against the Habs at the Forum in
. But they later played the “Broad Street Bullies” at the boisterous and of course pro-Flyer crowd at the Spectrum in Montreal . Philadelphia
During the game, the Flyers were ahead of the Red Army side, and were also pounding them physically the way those Flyers teams did to a lot of NHL teams at the time. After a while, the Soviet players had had enough and their coach pulled them off the ice—and they actually headed to the dressing room in the middle of the play.
I’ll always remember Cole, in that great voice of his, intoning, “…and they’re going home….”
I just thought it was a great line, so fitting with the moment. They were indeed planning to stop playing and “head home”, as it were, until the organizers (likely Alan Eagleson) informed them that they wouldn’t be getting their appearance money if they didn’t keep playing.
Cole has called all kinds of huge games, events and series since the mid-‘70s, of course. For years, as we know, he was the top guy on HNIC along with color commentator Harry Neale. They were a good team, though Bob never fully played off Harry as well as he could have. Cole was very serious, while Harry liked to laugh and tell stories, which worked well with Joe Bowen, for example, but less comfortably with Cole, it seemed.
But Cole has been tremendous, despite his advancing age, and he remains a presence in the booth and in the game.
That said, wouldn’t it be a nice gesture if Jim Hughson stepped aside and invited Cole, one last time, to call a Cup-deciding game?
It won’t happen. Guys build their careers on these moments, on these big games, and no one gives up the chance to call these kinds of games.
And yes, I realize that Cole has had plenty of opportunities in the past to do what Hughson has now earned: the opportunity to call the biggest game of the NHL season.
I used to like Hughson in his early days as a hockey and baseball play-by-play guy. I’m less a fan of his work now, not because of anything personal (I realize some observers see him as a Canuck “homer”) but maybe just the weariness that comes with listening to a guy too long. Certain phrases, certain cliches over and over just seem to hit a nerve sometimes...
In any event, I guess I wonder if anyone else would like to see Cole in the chair- one last time…