All I have written is the title and I already have chills. That’s how you know you are writing about a legend.
Bob Cole has been the voice of Hockey Night in Canada for the last fifty years. Tonight, he calls his final game as the Toronto Maple Leafs visit the Montreal Canadiens.
In the standings, the game means nothing. In the hearts of many, this game means everything, and it’s because of Bob Cole.
Hockey and Canada go together like pancakes and syrup. You don’t question it, it just is. First you crawl, then you learn to walk, then you learn to skate, and then you hold a hockey stick. That’s the natural progression of life.
I have so many great memories of playing road hockey in the summer with the other kids on my street. The games were never planned and you never needed an invitation. If you saw someone shooting on a net outside, you grabbed your stick and joined them.
Within ten minutes, there’d be enough players for two teams.
On the days I couldn’t go out to play, I’d watch from the window in my room and do play-by-play.
I’m willing to bet that many kids did play-by-play, whether it was for a game on ice, the street, or in their house when mini sticks were involved.
We all wanted to be like Bob Cole, or at least I did.
Saturday nights always held a special place in my heart because it was the one night of the week that Bob Cole called the Leafs game.
Everyone be quiet, Mr. Cole is delivering his sermon.
He is, without a doubt, the soundtrack of hockey. He, seemingly, knows when a goal is coming before anyone else does, and uses his voice to build anticipation, so when the puck finally crosses the goal line, your emotions are already at the surface and come out naturally.
Bob never wasted time with stories or statistics, or things that didn’t matter. He spoke about what was happening right in front of him. At the same time, he didn’t have to use many words, or scour the dictionary for synonyms, his emotion carried every line out of his mouth.
He’s been doing this for fifty years. Can you imagine doing any job for fifty years and still loving it on the last day, as much as you did on the first? That’s remarkable to me.
Just think of how many people grew up listening to him on Saturday nights, who now have kids or grandkids. He connects generations in a way very few people can.
Sports are like a book. When you attend a game in person, you only get the title of each chapter. When you watch the game on TV, or listen on the radio, you get all the words from cover to cover.
Bob Cole wrote that story every Saturday night.
I wouldn’t have such an emotional connection with the Leafs playoff runs in the early 2000s if it weren’t for Bob’s voice providing the sound. Those games aren’t the same if you watch them on mute.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to YouTube to watch clips, just because Bob Cole provided the commentary. They never fail to bring a smile to my face or cheer me up when I need it.
Here’s one, from 2002, I go back to a lot:
Sports are about emotion. They’re about losing yourself in a game and riding the waves of success and failure. Bob Cole always put that feeling into words and enhanced what you were experiencing.
I could go on about him for days, but I will end with a small story.
In 1999, during the last game at Maple Leaf Gardens, Bob Cole said:
“This great and admired lady has been just fine since 1931, thank you, well times change and one must move one.”
Isn’t that just brilliant? Find me a broadcaster today who can sum up their thoughts on a building in one succinct sentence like that.
I remember that line, and go back to listen to it often, because it’s played at the beginning of the final Maple Leaf Gardens tribute video, which aired that night.
Though it feels like the last part of my childhood is fading away tonight, I’m thankful for all the memories Bob Cole has given me and millions of other viewers. He impacted so many lives and handed out goosebumps on a weekly basis.
They say that people don’t remember what you say, but they remember how you made them feel.
Of course, I’ll remember Bob’s famous calls like, “Ohhh Baby!” and “They’re going home!” (which I say at least once a week, for any and all occasions), but there is no way I’ll ever forget how he made me feel, as I watched Hockey Night in Canada every Saturday night.
Tonight will be bittersweet, but times change and one must move on.
Thank you, Bob Cole.