Hockey fans gather in St. John’s as Bob Cole is laid to rest

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An older man wearing a suit sits in the broadcast booth at a hockey arena.
Bob Cole, pictured here in 2018, died last week in St. John’s. He was 90. (Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Family, friends and fans from around the hockey world gathered in St. John’s on Friday afternoon for the funeral of broadcasting icon Bob Cole.

Cole, 90, died last week in St. John’s surrounded by his family.

“Everything he did, he did for us.  We knew that, and we felt that,” daughter Megan Cole told attendees of St. Thomas Anglican Church in downtown St. John’s — Cole’s family church, where he sang as a choirboy about 80 years earlier.

“It has been a true privilege to share our amazing dad with this province he loved so much. With the country and with the world of hockey. We are heartbroken, and our days without our dad will not be the same.”

Cole was known as the soundtrack to some of hockey’s greatest moments over his 50-year career. His voice often followed the Hockey Night in Canada theme — which was played by the CLB Armory band following the funeral

He worked 34 of those years with broadcaster Ron MacLean, who was asked to deliver the eulogy.

A woman wearing a black dress delivers a message in a church.
Cole’s daughter, Megan, said the family is privileged to share their father with the world. (St. Thomas Anglican Church/Facebook)

“Bob’s a dear, dear friend who mentored me and was up to lots of mischief with me.… We all know that his voice is legendary and we can hear that, but I’ll always recall the gleam in his eye,” MacLean said Friday, adding he spoke to Cole four days before his death.

“Like the saying goes, the meaning of life is that it ends. The meaning of love is that it doesn’t.”

N.L. was always close to his heart

Former Newfoundland and Labrador premier Danny Williams said Cole represented the province with pride and grace.

“Bob gave us a special, international reputation. I mean he was highly respected, his voice is iconic,” he said. “He’s our hometown boy, and we took great pride every time he called a game.”

Cole lived in St. John’s throughout his career, and would travel weekly to wherever he was required before returning to Newfoundland.

WATCH | Bob Cole always had a gleam in his eye, says Ron MacLean: 

Ron MacLean recalls an N.L. booze cruise with NHL player, ref and Bob Cole — and an ocean dip

Bob Cole’s funeral in St. John’s was filled with laughs and heartwarming stories about the late NHL announcer. One of the more colourful ones came from his friend and colleague Ron MacLean, who recalled a time when Cole told him a swim in the Atlantic Ocean is refreshing. A bit of hilarity and chaos ensued, which MacLean joked was Cole’s style.

Cole’s son, Robbie, told those in the church that the family lit up whenever he returned, which always came with Sunday dinner.

“We would say, ‘Dad, tell us a story.’ And it was then that he had his most captive audience,” Cole said.

Cole also represented the province in other ways, skipping Newfoundland and Labrador at two Brier curling championships. As a rower, he competed at the Royal St. John’s Regatta.

Hockey commentator and former player Greg Millen told reporters after the service that Cole’s children, and Newfoundland, were always on Cole’s mind.

“There wasn’t a day that went by when I travelled with him that he didn’t talk about his children. Pretty special,” he said. “He loved his home, and he talked about Newfoundland a lot. You know, I had to make sure I pronounced it correctly,” he added with a laugh.

Fan Evan Purcell came to the funeral wearing a powder-blue Hockey Night in Canada blazer — not unlike the one Cole would have worn for a broadcast.

“The best broadcaster ever. The Wayne Gretzky of commentary,” he said. “He was always so electric, and he always got you on the edge of your seat.”

A smiling man wearing a powder blue blazer with the retro Hockey Night in Canada logo on the right pocket.
St. John’s hockey fan Evan Purcell met Cole a few years ago when the Toronto Maple Leafs held training camp in Paradise. He came to the funeral wearing a powder-blue Hockey Night in Canada blazer, like the ones Cole would wear on television. (Malone Mullin/CBC)

This time of year is a busy time for Cole’s colleagues at Hockey Night in Canada, who were on TV in Toronto for the NHL playoffs the night before, but reporter and analyst Elliotte Friedman said it was important for the crew to be in St. John’s.

“Everybody who knew Bob and everybody who worked with Bob, you know, we all loved being around him,” said Friedman. “The thing about Bob is I don’t think you can’t be any good in this business if you don’t have passion. And when a game got big or when a moment got big, nobody had the passion of Bob. And we loved being around him.” 

He told reporters he was overcome with emotion watching Cole’s children speak at the funeral, and that he admired how the service used the music of Frank Sinatra, one of Cole’s favourite performers.

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