Oh Baby: Thank You Bob Cole

Ask anyone across Canada over the last half a century to describe hockey, Canada and childhood.  Many answers might come back but only one would be correct to encapsulate a response that everyone could agree with: Saturday night, The Toronto Maple Leafs versus The Montreal Canadiens with Bob Cole in the broadcast booth to sing us through his soundtrack as he narrates the national classic.


An entire nation has grown up over the last fifty years bearing witness to a rivalry that stood long before and one that will stand long after but in a particular prestigious era in between.  Bob Cole is the last of his kind, showing a whole new school of commentators that it may be one thing for them to call a good game with technical precision but it is another thing entirely to make great calls and therein lies the difference.  In a time where play-by-play is fed through a headset and spoken on command by whomever has been tasked to the assignment, Bob Cole remains the same as he has always been: with one headphone on, the other headphone pushed back as he places one hand over his otherwise exposed ear, calling the game not just as he sees it but as he feels it.  The living legend feels the pace and the energy of the game as well as the crowd and he falls to a nadir or rises to a crescendo as the aura depicts with an air of honesty and authenticity as a result.


Data in sports may be ever growing and expanding, something that has infiltrated broadcast booths across the sporting map but no one is about to hear Bob Cole go on about the statistical measurements of any player or team’s shots around the net over the course of 60 minutes.  The man is the last of his kind keeping the soul of sports alive, predicating what he does on what it was meant to be founded upon: feeling.  Bob Cole has spent fifty years making Canada bleed with joy and giving anyone ever privileged enough to listen to him an unparalleled touch that left his words engraved into our hearts and burned into our souls, leading to the man himself being as big a part or a bigger part of Hockey Night In Canada’s greatest moments.


Bob Cole is an artist of a game played with raw emotion and who better to convey anything ever felt at every corner of the greatest rivalry in sports? Of course, his legend is not strictly left with two teams but certainly with two teams more so than any other.  There is never a bigger ticket on Hockey Night and there is never a bigger deal in Canada so to ever give the nod to anyone other than Bob Cole over so many years for a game like this is flat out wrong.  Yes, in this art –like any other– most or all things are subjective but to have once or perhaps thousands of times felt the man’s impact is know that it is a fact that only Bob can do justice to paint the picture of a country captured by its game and the two teams that embody it to its people not in one over the other but in the timeless battle between the two.


The national fabric may be woven by flannel or glued together with the sticky sweetness of maple syrup and frosted over by beer but the Saturday night tradition between the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs fighting for that Saturday night’s kingship of the country with Bob Cole sitting atop the action as the crown jewel of Canada is the axis upon which it all rotates.  This is a day that Canada knew was coming but could never brace itself for as Mr. Cole suits up to sing us his final song.  The children of the last half a century, from those born on this day to those that welcomed him into their homes for his first game in 1969, will emerge on the other side as a nation aged.  The auditory wonder that raised a collective youth over this time span will depart from the airwaves but leave Canada with a treasury of memories archived in the essence of those fortunate enough to witness the legend that lived to make Hockey Night In Canada the greatest anyone could ask.


Another 50 years could be spent here attempting to do justice to Bob Cole but it would ironically require his voice and ability to do so, neither of which could ever be duplicated.  The words “thank you” seem almost insultingly small considering the magnitude of everything that the man brought to hockey and to Canada but it may be all that anyone has, including the entire staff here at All About The Habs or even just a four year old boy whose first memories of hockey were highlighted above all else by “…and now a twenty-fourth Stanley Cup banner will hang from the rafters of the famous Forum in Montreal. The Canadiens win the Stanley Cup!”


One more Saturday.  One more game.  Canada will be running with the shadows of Saturday night, knowing that the legend that bridged this great gap in time reaches the end here but tens of millions strong living one more moment for one more night of ecstasy.  The playoff race may be decided by this point but something far beyond just one season is to be decided.  All that remains is to send Bob off just as he wants it.  Everyone will hear it, know it and feel it in the sound of his voice.  One more time.


“You can let me down easy but not tonight.”


“And the place goes CRAZY!” – Bob Cole
Photo: Sportsnet

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One Response to Oh Baby: Thank You Bob Cole

  1. Well done again Mr BOB COLE, you have made canadian hockey fans cheer for their teams like never before………GOOD LUCK BOB and good health to you sir

    DON ROSS April 7, 2019 at 1:04 am Reply

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