By Brian Costello
The Hockey News/TC Media
I had an email exchange with a media associate of mine Monday morning dealing with the pros and cons of Hockey Night In Canada venerable play-by-play man Bob Cole.
He tackled the cons. I handled the pros. He wondered, ever so diplomatically, if Sunday night’s Game 7 showdown between the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks was Cole’s final game calling NHL action.
My media associate obviously hadn’t heard the good news. Oh baby, Bob Cole is coming back for at least another season. That was confirmed by HNIC host Ron MacLean Sunday night. Rogers media takes over the Canadian NHL TV hockey landscape starting next season and much is in flux with CBC personalities. But Cole will be part of the picture, probably in a limited capacity.
That’s good news to me and all the other Bob Cole fans out there. As for the Cole critics? They just don’t appreciate his subtle strengths.
It’s far too easy to listen to a Bob Cole-called game and point out the technical flaws. Now 80 and in his 45th season calling NHL action, Cole gets names wrong every now and then. He gets confused from time to time. There are often extended pauses between words. Sentences are sometimes fragmented. The blatantly obvious is chewed a few times too often. A minute can go by with nary a player’s name mentioned.
Some might call those weaknesses. I call them uniquenesses.
And man, what a delivery. What voice inflections. What wonderful expressions he comes up with. As THN editor Matt Larkin pointed out last week, he’d love to hear Bob Cole call play-by-play on a person reaching for his coffee and taking a sip as though that was deciding the fate of good versus evil. “With his old-school vocal urgency, he’d make it sound interesting and you couldn’t help but turn and watch.”
Like Danny Gallivan and Foster Hewitt before him, Bob Cole may not be fully appreciated by the hockey masses until he stops calling games.
Other hockey play-by-play men are surely more polished and do a better job painting a complete picture — Gord Miller and Chris Cuthbert are two of my favorites — but listening to Bob Cole is not only a rite of passage for Canadian hockey fans, but a valuable treat.
Just last week, my wife sat down to watch a hockey game with me, for maybe just the fourth or fifth time ever. She didn’t know who was calling the action, but she loved his folksy delivery and tensed up as the pitch in his voice changed during scoring chances. When I told her it was the legendary Bob Cole, she said of course it was. She listened to Bob Cole as a little girl, watching games with her parents on a Saturday night.
She was impressed and happy he’s still active. So are a lot of other people.