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Ron McLean still has strong bond with Newfoundland’s hockey play-by-play legend Bob Cole

Ron MacLean poses for a photo near the Glynmill Inn in Corner Brook Wednesday morning. MacLean is in the city for Hockey Day in Canada celebrations.
Ron MacLean poses for a photo near the Glynmill Inn in Corner Brook Wednesday morning. MacLean is in the city for Hockey Day in Canada celebrations. - Dave Kearsey

Ron MacLean will always remember the settling words Bob Cole spoke to him when he was just getting his career going as a host for Hockey Night in Canada.

MacLean had worked a regional broadcast on a Friday night during the 1986-87 NHL season to get his start and the following Saturday night he was on television for the Hockey Night in Canada telecast.

Before Ron went on the air that Saturday night, Cole walked into the broadcast booth and said “Hey Ron, I watched the game last night. Don’t change a thing.”

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MacLean, who is in Corner Brook this week for Hockey Day in Canada festivities, said hearing a legend like Cole give him a thumbs up was the nicest thing he could have heard at the time and it made him feel good about the path he had chosen for a career.

“It gave you belief and they always say belief lifts talent,” MacLean told The Western Star during a one-on-one interview Wednesday at the Glynmill Inn in Corner Brook.

Cole was part of a four-man broadcast crew that included MacLean, Don Cherry and Harry Neale and they became a close-knit group who had a lot of fun doing something they all loved.

MacLean remembers the good times when they would get together for a few beers after a broadcast. They would have a few beers at a hotel bar, but Cole wasn’t a fan of the bar scene so he would just go back to his room and McLean would join him afterwards.

Cole is a fan of Captain Morgan dark and it wasn’t available in the United States so that provided more reason for him to not like the bars because he couldn’t get his favourite beverage.

He always had his stash of his favourite, however, according to MacLean.

“The referees used to bring him Captain Morgan rum that he liked to drink,” he said. “He would like to just get down to his boxer shorts and shirt and have a rum and coke up in the room and it was peaceful. The intensity of doing the game for Bob was like running a marathon so he didn’t like the noise of a bar.”

MacLean said their conversations always focused on the game or preparation for the next one when they would be relaxing in the hotel room, but often they talked about life and what’s important.

His friendship with Cole taught him a thing or two about how to be a professional and how to handle yourself in public because the microscope is always on people in the public eye and people have certain expectations because of who you are.

It’s a friendship that is still strong today with MacLean making regular visits to St. John’s every summer to play in Cole’s annual golf tournament.

Even during these golf tournaments, he saw how Cole conducted himself in a professional manner, refusing to take a drink until everything was done and over with and everybody was safe.

He believes Cole is an interesting character when you consider he was an accomplished pilot, curler, rower and saw a bit of the world working on a cruiseship as a boy.

He only had to reflect on a conversation he had with his friend Allan Doyle of Great Big Sea to see how much of an impact Cole had on others with big dreams.

MacLean said Doyle always talked about the bridge in his tiny hometown of Petty Harbour and his wondering if he could get on the other side of the bridge would it be possible to reach the mainland, Broadway or Massey Hall.

“Because Bob Cole had done it I thought it would be possible,” Doyle would respond to McLean.

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