Bob Cole, the voice of hockey in Canada for a half-century, dies at 90

TORONTO (AP) — Bob Cole, the voice of hockey in Canada for a half century who served as the soundtrack for some of the national sport’s biggest moments, has died. He was 90.

Friend and fellow broadcaster John Shannon said Cole died Wednesday night in his hometown of St. John’s, the capital of the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the network for which Cole worked, announced his death Thursday, adding daughter Megan said her father had been healthy “up until the very end.”

“He’s such a legend, such a great man,” said Colorado center Nathan MacKinnon, a Nova Scotia native. “I’ve met him a few times over the years. At charity golf tournaments in Halifax, he’d come out and support Atlantic Canadians. Amazing person, super funny. Just a great guy and obviously some of the best calls of all time.”

Known for his “Oh baby!” catchphrase, Cole called some iconic games as part of CBC’s “Hockey Night in Canada.” His distinctive play-by-play style added even more flavor to the 1972 Summit Series between Canada and the Soviet Union, when he did the radio broadcast, the 2002 Olympic final in Salt Lake City and numerous Stanley Cup Finals.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Cole “made every game he called sound bigger” and transcended generations by sharing his obvious passion for our game and his stunning talent for conveying hockey’s excitement and majesty with both eloquence and enthusiasm.”

Cole called his first game, on radio, between Boston and Montreal in April 1969 and moved to TV in 1973. He called his last game on April 6, 2019 — the regular-season finale between the Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs — and in between was honored by the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1996, winning the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award for outstanding contributions as a hockey broadcaster.

“The hockey world, we lost a legend,” Winnipeg Jets coach Rick Bowness said. “All the coaches around the league and all the hockey people, they trusted him. He was a true pro. You could tell him anything and he called a great game.”

Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper — speaking poignantly even after his team lost a playoff game to Florida 5-3 to fall into a 3-0 hole in that series — said his passion for the game truly started by listening to Cole. Cooper went as far to say that he’s “probably not coaching in this league if it wasn’t growing up and having a passion for this game because of the voice of that man.”

“It was all because of the emotion that Bob Cole brought to this game,” Cooper said. “And he’s the Wayne Gretzky of announcers. My passion for this game is built on what Bob Cole said and every night watching ‘Hockey Night in Canada,’ I’d turn that thing on at 5 o’clock just to hear his voice.”

Cooper met with Cole in Montreal in 2018, after a pregame skate, and was just in awe of the moment, standing alongside Cole at the broadcast position high over the ice.

“I’m not star-struck often,” Cooper said. “I was star-struck when he came down.”

Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe opened his remarks between playoff games Thursday by passing along condolences to Cole’s family.

“Someone who touched the game in so many ways, as an icon in our sport and the voice of hockey, not just in Toronto, but in our country,” Keefe said. “A sad day for sure.”

Added Cooper: “I’m going to miss that man. He was a superstar in this sport.”

Cole’s reach extended beyond hockey. He skipped Newfoundland at the 1971 Brier and 1975 Canadian men’s curling championship, served as quiz master on “Reach for the Top” and worked for the Newfoundland government.


AP Sports Writer Pat Graham in Denver contributed.



Copyright © 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up