Members of NHL community and beyond pay tribute to legendary broadcaster Bob Cole

He died Wednesday night in St. John's, N.L., surrounded by his family, his daughter, Megan Cole, told the CBC.

Members of NHL community and beyond pay tribute to legendary broadcaster Bob Cole

Members of the NHL community and beyond paid tribute Bob Cole on Thursday after the legendary broadcaster died at age 90.

He died Wednesday night in St. John's, N.L., surrounded by his family, his daughter, Megan Cole, told the CBC.

Cole, an influential voice in broadcasting for more than half a century, brought life to some of hockey's biggest games.

TNT hockey broadcaster Ed Olczyk, a former Winnipeg Jets and Toronto Maple Leafs forward, reminisced about admiring Bob Cole's big-game presence during his time playing in Canada.

"Just a super genuine hockey lover," Olczyk said Thursday in Denver, where the Colorado Avalanche and the Jets were preparing to continue a first-round series on Friday.

"Obviously his call is so connected to 'Hockey Night in Canada.' Having played six years in Winnipeg and three years in Toronto, any time that he would walk into the room, you knew it was a big game. Just a great man."

Avalanche star defenceman Cale Makar was a rookie when Cole called his last games during the 2018-19 season, but he strongly admired Cole's legacy.

"He was such a legendary announcer and such an awesome human being," Makar said. "That's a tough loss for the hockey world."

Avalanche superstar forward Nathan MacKinnon remembers Cole as "an amazing person."

"Super funny and just a great guy," MacKinnon said. "Some of the best calls of all time."

Winnipeg Jets coach Rick Bowness said the hockey world has lost a legend.

"We lost a wonderful human being. I spent a lot of time with Bob over the years. There's not necessarily a specific story, but the most important thing is that all the coaches around the league and all the hockey people, they trusted him," Bowness said. "He was a true pro. You could tell him anything and he called a great game."

Jets forward Tyler Toffoli called it a sad day for hockey.

"Seeing that this morning, waking up ... was pretty disheartening. Real unfortunate. The career he had affected so many people, and so many guys’ careers as well," Toffoli said.

Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe called Cole an "icon."

"Someone who touched the game in so many ways," Keefe said in Toronto, where the Maple Leafs were preparing for Game 4 of their series on Saturday. "The voice of hockey not just in Toronto, but in our country."

Vancouver Canucks coach Rick Tocchet, a veteran of more than 1,000 games as a player, is thankful for the time he spent with Cole away from the rink.

"'I went to his golf tournament a couple of times in the Maritimes and spent a lot of time there. You know, he's a legend,' Tocchet said Thursday as the Canucks practised ahead of Game 3 of their series with the Nashville Predators. "Just hanging out with him at those golf tournaments was special for me."

Tocchet said it was always special to hear Cole call his name during a broadcast.

"I think I had a really good fight with (former Maple Leaf) Wendel Clark, and I think it might have been him and Harry Neale on the call. So I remember that," he said.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement that Cole’s voice was "the iconic and incomparable soundtrack of hockey across Canada for more than 50 years.

"From countless winter Saturday nights on 'Hockey Night in Canada' to the 1972 Summit Series to multiple Olympic Games to dozens of Stanley Cup finals, his distinctive, infectious play-by-play made every game he called sound bigger," Bettman said.

Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper credited Cole for his own passion for hockey.

"I'm 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 as a little kid," Cooper said Thursday night after a game against Florida. 

"It was all because of the emotion that Bob Cole brought to this game. And he's the Wayne Gretzky of announcers. My passion for this game is built on what Bob Cole said."

TSN hockey broadcaster Gord Miller called Cole a fantastic mentor and wonderful friend.

"Everyone who ever did play-by-play of a hockey game and anyone who ever does in the future will stand in the shadow of Bob Cole," Miller wrote on X, the social media service formerly known as Twitter.

Fellow broadcaster John Shannon, a former executive producer of Hockey Night in Canada at CBC, wrote on X that his heart was broken after hearing news of Cole's death.

"He had a passion that every hockey fan felt every time he announced a game. There will only be one Bob Cole. And now he's gone" he said.

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. 

"I think he's going to be remembered as a Newfoundlander that really made it on a big scale," said six-time Brier champion Brad Gushue, who also hails from St. John's.

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey echoed Gushue's sentiments, saying his death was a loss for all hockey fans, but especially poignant for those in his home province.

"He was an incredible man with an incredible voice. Hearing him call games played by our heroes allowed us to dream and to realize that we could achieve great heights in any endeavour and on any stage," Furey said in a statement. 

"While his impact on the world of hockey was immense, he was something extra special for this province.” 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 25, 2024.

— With files from Gregory Strong in Denver and The Associated Press.

The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version misspelled Ed Olczyk's last name in the fifth paragraph