Bob Cole. Bob Cole. (Sportsnet on YouTube.)

The list of those who have called any single sport at a high level at the same network for a half-century is small. One of those is Bob Cole, the famed Canadian hockey announcer who passed away Wednesday at 90.

Here’s more from his family in that CBC piece, by John Gushue:

Cole, who was 90, died Wednesday night in St. John’s surrounded by his family, his daughter, Megan Cole, said.

“Thank you for decades of love for his work, love of Newfoundland and love of hockey,” Megan Cole told CBC News on Thursday.

Cole said her father had been healthy “up until the very end.”

Cole was born in Newfoundland in 1933, back when it was still a British dominion (it joined Canada as the province of Newfoundland and Labrador in 1949). While he was still a teenager, a soccer injury had him in the hospital for six months. That time recuperating saw him listening to tapes of legendary CBC hockey announcer Foster Hewitt during that time, and developing his own interest in doing play-by-play.

In 1956, Cole made a surprise visit to Hewitt’s Toronto office to drop off an audition tape. There, he not only was welcomed by Hewitt, but got immediate feedback on his tape and some advice. Cole discussed that in a 2016 CBC interview with Debbie Cooper:

“It was a dream you would never imagine could happen — Foster Hewitt is talking to me about how he does, how he thinks about a hockey game.”

Cole would put that advice to good use quickly. After time calling hockey on Newfoundland radio station VOCM, he joined CBC Radio for national Hockey Night In Canada broadcasts in 1969, then moved to the television side of those broadcasts in 1973. He’d work there through 2019, calling at least one Stanley Cup Final game every year from 1980 to 2008.

Cole was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame’s media wing in 1996. That induction saw him receive the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award, given “to recognize distinguished members of the radio and television industry who made outstanding contributions to their profession and the game during their career in hockey broadcasting.”

Cole also called key international events like the 1972 Summit Series and the Olympics. Here’s his radio call of Paul Henderson’s Summit Series-winning goal.

Cole produced a ton of remarkable calls during his career. Some of those are shown in this Sportsnet collection, put out in 2018 during his final season:

He also got unusual shoutouts, such as Snoop Dogg’s “I’m going to shoot it back to my main man Bob Cole” in a CBC in-game interview during the 2007 Stanley Cup Final:

Cole’s calls are fondly remembered by not just fans, but by current players. Around his 2019 retirement, many top players and coaches spoke about his impact in a Canadian Press piece. Here are some of those comments (with players’ teams at the time listed):

“A living legend. I’ve had a great relationship with him over the years. His voice is iconic. It’s all I associated with watching hockey growing up. Bittersweet for sure, but a great man. He has a close spot in a lot of Canadians’ hearts over the years.” — Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos

“I just love his voice. He’s definitely going to be missed. He’s done a lot for this game. Pretty much all I heard (growing up watching hockey) was his voice. It brings back a lot of good memories.” — Vancouver Canucks centre Bo Horvat

“If there was a choice to watch any hockey game, you want that guy calling it. It’s just ingrained in my memory. He’s the voice of hockey in Canada. I love hearing him. He’s got a great way with him. I’m certainly sad to see him go.” — Carolina Hurricanes captain Justin Williams

“His voice is to any hockey fan what Morgan Freeman’s is to the cinema world. He’s got one of the most recognizable voices in the game. For my family, it was pretty cool to hear Bob Cole call our games and have him say my name.” — Ottawa Senators winger Zack Smith

“One of the greatest memories for me was two years ago in Montreal. Bob came down to our pre-game skate, and as he does, he just strolls right into the coaches’ room unannounced. He’s the only guy that’s allowed to do it or can do it. I asked him if he would take me up to the gondola in Montreal. I go out for the skate, I come back, I thought he’d forgot about it. Five minutes later he wheels in there and brings me upstairs. I put the headsets on with him, we took pictures. It was just he and I. That was just one of those moments I’ll always cherish, that Bob did that for me.” — Lightning head coach Jon Cooper

“He’s a legend of the game. When you think of Saturday nights with your folks or your friends, that was the familiar voice. I grew up watching Hockey Night in Canada so Bob Cole for me is a voice you always recognized. It will definitely be different without him.” — Senators defenceman Dylan DeMelo

Cole’s passing also sparked numerous tributes on Twitter/X. Here are some of those:

Our thoughts go out to Cole’s family and friends.

[CBC; image from Sportsnet on YouTube]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.