Sportsnet president Scott Moore said the door is open for the part-time return of longtime play-by-play man Bob Cole of St. John’s to the network’s broadcasts of National Hockey League games.
The 84-year-old Hockey Hall of Famer had a reduced schedule in recent years and did not work any Stanley Cup playoff games this spring.
Moore says, like Don Cherry, Cole is at the stage of his career where he sorts out his work setup on an annual basis in the off-season.
“Bob and I have talked about whether or not he would do some games next year,” Moore said. “We will discuss that over the summer. I continue to be a big fan of Bob's. He is a legend.
“We'd love to have him do a few games next year.”
Sportsnet is part of Rogers Media, a subsidiary of Rogers Communications, which is in its fourth year of a 12-year, $5.2-billion deal with the NHL. The agreement included a sub-licensing deal to allow the CBC to air “Hockey Night in Canada.”
HNIC has given hockey fans their fix of Cole, Cherry and longtime host Ron MacLean, best known as Cherry’s foil on the Coach’s Corner segment.
“I'm not speaking particularly about Don (Cherry) or Bob (Cole) or anybody else, but it's tough to know both from the individual's standpoint and from the network standpoint when the right time is to say thank you to your fans.”
Sportsnet president Scott Moore
“All three of those guys engage with the fans personally in a way that Hollywood celebrities don't,” Moore said. “Fans feel personally attached to their sports media heroes and that's a good thing. That's a great thing for us. But it's a double-edged sword because at some point there's turnover.”
Planning for that eventual turnover can be a big challenge for network brass, especially when beloved personalities are in the twilight of their careers.
Moore said the most important things are to be respectful of the audience and the individual.
“That's not an easy task because in many cases, people who have been involved in hockey and involved in sports media, it's not just a job, it's a passion,” Moore said. “So discussing when that passion is over is a difficult discussion in any case.
“I'm not speaking particularly about Don or Bob or anybody else, but it's tough to know both from the individual's standpoint and from the network standpoint when the right time is to say thank you to your fans. I can only imagine — because I'm not that age — but I can only imagine how tough a discussion that is for the individual.”
Cherry, who is also 84, last had his contract extended in 2016 . Moore said they’ll also meet this summer to talk about future plans.
“I think he continues to be relevant, he continues to be must-watch television,” Moore said of Cherry. “We sit down every July for lunch to talk about whether or not he wants to come back and in what capacity.
“I expect that he will be back next year. We've had some preliminary discussions. I'm obviously a big fan of his.”
Hockey fans have not been shy about voicing their displeasure at any tweak or change on the broadcasting front. So whether he's planning to keep things status quo or make changes, Moore can always count on a full inbox and regular comments on his social media feeds.
“You're always open to criticism no matter what you do,” Moore said. “But it's still the most-watched sports program week in, week out. During the playoffs, you're No. 1 every night in the ratings.
“That's a responsibility but it's also a great success story.”