I’m not a Bob Cole fan. When you grew up on Danny Gallivan’s “Savardian spinorama”, “larcenous save”, “dipsy-doodling over the line” and “stepping out rather gingerly”, Cole’s “oh, baby”, “everything is happening” and “what is going on in Pennsylvania?” make for a pale imitation. Gallivan was a wordsmith – a master of the English language. Cole is barely literate by comparison. His play-by-play has been characterized by rambling incoherence and inarticulate bluster at the best of times. That said, I understand the appeal to the generation that grew up with Cole. Whatever his failings as a broadcaster, he is the soundtrack of their youth, and to criticize him is to diminish their earliest and fondest hockey memories.
As the curtain prepares to come down on his Hockey Night in Canada career – now in its 50th season – there is no denying Bob Cole’s status as a Canadian legend. It’s unfortunate, however, that he is being forced out. It’s also his own fault. He could have retired gracefully, on his own terms, some years ago when he started to lose whatever once passed for his fastball. But he hung on for dear life and complained publicly and bitterly when he was passed over for Stanley Cup playoff broadcasts last spring. The sour grapes were unbecoming for a professional of Cole’s stature and bespoke an attitude of ingratitude from someone who has led a charmed existence. Hopefully, when Cole is given the opportunity to say goodbye on Canada’s grandest media stage this season, he will do so with humility, grace and a prepared script.
(Photo credit: Hockey Night in Canada)