Remembering Bob Cole, the greatest hockey announcer of all-time

Photo credit:CBC/Hockey Night in Canada
Arun Srinivasan
1 day ago
Bob Cole, the legendary Hockey Night in Canada announcer, died at 90 Wednesday night, surrounded by his family.
Cole, to many is the defining voice of hockey. It’s hard to imagine growing up as a Toronto Maple Leafs fan, or as a hockey fan generally, without hearing Cole’s booming intonation searing into your memories. Cole was Hockey Night in Canada’s lead announcer from 1980-2008, often paired on Maple Leafs broadcasts and he brought a genuine level of enthusiasm, excitement and a sense for the occasion that hasn’t been replicated on Canadian airwaves since. He essentially became the voice of the Stanley Cup Finals and hockey at the Winter Olympics. Cole’s unrelenting love of the game was embedded into each of his calls
“He never seemed to cheer for either team, he just wanted a good game,” Cole’s longtime broadcasting partner, Harry Neale, reflected to Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek.
If you take a cursory look around social media, you’ll see several tributes to Cole, about how he was their introduction to hockey and that’s certainly resonant. Many newcomers and immigrants view hockey as a natural extension of Canadiana and Cole was an entry point, a guide to hockey and his iconic calls, his ability to elevate moments and his passion was a language that operated as a uniting force for many. Cole’s unique inflection made it feel like he was speaking directly to you in your living room. He is arguably Canada’s greatest national expert, a true ambassador for this oft-fractured country.
Above all, Cole was a tremendous announcer and let’s be clear: he clearly surpassed his hero Foster Hewitt as Canada’s voice of hockey, which should be a cabinet position. Let’s get into some of these iconic calls!
Toronto was facing elimination during Game 6 of the 2002 Eastern Conference Finals, trailing the Carolina Hurricanes 1-0. Hurricanes goaltender Arturs Irbe morphed into a larger-than-life figure during this series and with the season on the line, Tomas Kaberle got a shot through traffic. Mats Sundin whacked away at the puck through the ensuing scrum with 22 seconds, then:
Carolina would go onto win the game in overtime, but it’s a moot point: Cole captured elation better than any hockey broadcaster in history.
There are few things better than a walk-off elimination goal and Cole went nuts when Nikolai Borschevsky led the Maple Leafs past the Detroit Red Wings during the first round of the 1993 playoffs.
My personal favourite are Cole’s calls during Game 7 of the 2004 first-round series between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators. It was just twenty years ago when The Battle of Ontario felt like the Maple Leafs’ foremost rivalry and as a teenager, anticipation for this game reached fever pitch. Joe Nieuwendyk scored nearly-identical soft goals against beleaguered Senators goalie Patrick Lalime and Cole’s call elevated an Air Canada Centre crowd that was ready to blow the roof off of the newly-built arena.

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Here’s Nieuwendyk again! Scores again! Right! Through! Lalime! Two in a row, for Nieuwendyk. What’s going on?!
Cole was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1996 and was the greatest hockey announcer of my lifetime, to say nothing of three generations of Canadians. Oh, baby, Cole’s presence within the larger hockey ecosystem is missed badly. He is forever the voice of hockey. Rest in peace, Bob Cole.

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