Fans, players celebrate Bob Cole on final game as broadcaster

Legendary play-by-play announcer for Hockey Night in Canada retires after 50 years

Bob Cole pictured before a playoff game on May 22, 2012
Bob Cole pictured before a playoff game on May 22, 2012. Wikipedia

The voice of Hockey Night in Canada has signed off after 50 years of play-by-play game calling.

Bob Cole, whose famous call of “Oh baby!” captured the hearts of Toronto Maple Leafs fans for decades, retired Saturday on the night of the final regular season game between the Montreal Canadiens and the Leafs.

“He’s a gentleman. He’s been a real ambassador for the game, an ambassador for Newfoundland, a good person to be around,” said Leafs head coach Mike Babcock.

Cole, 85, was born in St. John’s and got interested in sports announcing after listening to Foster Hewitt, a Canadian radio broadcaster who called games for Hockey Night in the 1950s.

Cole began calling hockey games on VOCM Radio in St. John’s in 1953.

He realized his dream to work for Hockey Night in Canada in 1969 when he got to call on radio a playoff game at Boston Garden between the Boston Bruins and the Canadiens. Cole then moved to television in 1973 and would call many memorable hockey moments in his career.

“Oh baby!” became his trademark call.

Many players and coaches around the league congratulated Cole on Saturday for his legendary career.

In a Toronto Maple Leafs press conference earlier that day, Babcock and defenceman Morgan Rielly reflected on Cole’s career and influence on the game of hockey.

“His family is gonna be here tonight and I imagine they will honour him in a proper way,” Babcock said before Cole’s last game.

Commentator Don Cherry said Cole was the “best of all” of the personalities on Hockey Night in Canada.

According to Karen Sebesta, a senior producer for CBC Sports who worked with Cole for 10 years on Hockey Night, Cole was extremely serious when preparing to call a hockey game, but that there was a good sense of humour about him.

“He’s a Newfoundlander right,” she said.  She added that off the microphone he was a very playful and funny person. It was on a flight to New York for a playoff series where Sebesta could really see the “lightness” of him, she said.

“The whole thing with flying with Bob Cole was he always wanted to sit at [seat] 1A. He always wanted to be at the front.” On that flight, the plane began doing little dips. Soon after, she heard a voice on the plane’s intercom: “Hello everybody. This is your Captain speaking, Bob Cole.”

“We were all like, ‘Oh my God. Cole is in the cockpit.’ He had gone up to the pilot and tried to pull a little prank on us and scare us,” Sebesta said.

But most will remember Cole’s on-air work for Hockey Night. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1996 as a recipient of the Foster Hewitt award.

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Posted: Apr 7 2019 1:29 pm
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