It was during the summer of 2010 that Bob Cole's genius finally took hold of me for good.
As I drove down to our yearly Victoria Day weekend party, my biggest worry was missing Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals. The whole way up ambivalence took hold, as the excitement of a great weekend was spoiled by the uneasiness instilled by the fear that I might miss such an important game, or perhaps be relegated to the radio.
And then as I finally parked my truck, it hit me. The sweet sound of Bob Cole's epic voice bouncing off the trees. My ambivalence was quickly replaced with excitement. Since it was such a beautiful day, the boys had taken the TV outside, and set up the game for my arrival. It was the perfect setting for such a perfect game, called by such a perfect voice.
As it stands, Cole is one of the rare men in hockey who can be categorized as a national legend. His simple take on a sport that's adored by so many is the perfect accompaniment to a perfect game.
Sure, there are some legitimate concerns when it comes to Cole's current state. Let's face it, he's no spring chicken. He'll often mistake one player for another, or he'll completely gloss over the names of players from teams he rarely covers.
He's not perfect, but then again, name me one current broadcaster that is.
Certainly not Jim Hughson, the man who was charged with calling most Habs games during the 2014 playoffs. Unless you are trying to cure your insomnia, Hughson's take on a hockey game is far from entertaining. Yet, Hughson makes less errors. As do the majority of the current day play-by-play men. To many, that's the key to a great broadcast team.
I submit to you that this is a naive approach. Hughson can't hold a candle to Cole, and that's not meant as an insult to Hughson's work, he does an adequate job. However when it comes to bringing out the best from the fans, Cole stands alone at the top of Canadian hockey broadcasts.
Not only do we not need the play-by-play man to describe every single event, but the most important thing a play-by-play man should do is evoke emotion and excitement within most watching.
Bob Cole doesn't describe every play perfectly, partly due to his declining vision, and partly because he's far removed from his best years. Tell me though, is there another voice that can instantly gives you goosebumps just by announcing that a hockey game is about to take place?
Hearing his voice is a calm and soothing reminder that we're in for a great show, and I'm not referring to the hockey game, but to the fantastic job Cole does at creating elation and anticipation.
Like Danny Gallivan, Cole's greatest strength is calling a simple, yet exciting games. Unless you're watching your first hockey game, there's no real need for the play-by-play man to explain every single aspect of the game. You have eyes, you understand the game, you know what's going on. What an announcer needs to do is set the tone, the atmosphere, the excitement level. There are few involved in the game of hockey that do it better than our very own Bob Cole.
One of the major let downs for me during the 2014 playoffs was the lack of Bob Cole called Habs games. Year after year, the sound of Bob Cole calling games during spring was the sign that summer was truly around the corner. Forget the groundhog, the best indication has always been the sweet audio produced by the man with the golden voice. Of course, many will say that Cole is a Leafs homer, yet it has to be said that Mr.Cole is indeed a fan of the Bleu-Blanc-Rouge.
His legendary voice has set the soundtrack to a plethora of fantastic hockey events, and I'm sure you have your own favourite.
For me personally, it's not a specific event, but rather how I can follow along with a game just by the intonation of his voice. As the excitement level goes up, I know that I have a very short grace period to return to my television to see the impending goal, or beautiful save.
For many Habs fans it was his work during the 1993 Cup finals that elevated him to mythical levels (DES-JAR-DINS!), but for most Canadians it was his work on the international stage (Surely, that's got to be it!), which gave him some of his best moments (They're going home! They're going home!).
His voice IS the playoffs, as most Edmonton fans would attest to (Marchant SCOOOORES! ), as would everyone who's reviewed old tapes of the magic produced by Mario Lemieux. (Oh my heavens! What a move. What a goal. Lemieux. Oh baby!)
In the Pantheon of great hockey play-by-play men, Cole has his place between Hewitt, Lecavalier and Gallivan.
For those who opine that he can no longer keep up with the game, may I direct you to Game 5 of the L.A. Kings vs Chicago Blackhawks series. There was an overtime sequence that lasted almost eight minutes, in which we were all treated to a symphony of fantastic play-by-play. It was a moment of quandary for many, the joy of the perfect call was marred by rumours that Cole was calling his final hockey series.
This stark reminder that Canadian hockey was possibly losing its greatest voice set social media on fire, going as far as seeing Bob Cole trend on twitter.
Fear not hockey fans, Bob Cole will be back next season to grace us with an endless reel of intense emotion filled calls.