YOUR TAKE: The Bob Cole Debate

That piece yesterday drew as many comments as any Puck the Media story ever.  I’d like to thank you for your time spent discussing by posting some of the most interesting of your reactions.

Sean Thompson felt that the choice of Cole’s assignment was for little more than travel semantics:

Might Bob Cole’s assignment have something to do with travel? I know Cole’s still based in Newfoundland and he might not feel up to the coast-to-coast flights he’d probably have to take for the Chicago-San Jose series.

Jeremy sees the Cole train continuing on from here:

CBC can’t reduce Cole from the equation any further because the network doesn’t have anyone else polished enough (apart from Hughson, of course) to call the big games. Neither Mark Lee nor Dean Brown have what it takes and CBC needs at least two top-tier broadcasting teams throughout the regular season and playoffs.

If the Canadiens make it to the Finals this year, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Hughson cover their road games and Cole do the games in Montreal.

leafsfan1967 schooled us all on some history:

I can remember when the legendary Foster Hewitt was still going in his 70′s. He was well past his peak and yet was still THE voice of the Leafs on CKFH his own radio station. And he got to call the iconic Canada Russia series in 1972 on TV while Bob Cole did the radio broadcasts. Foster Hewitt finally was forced to retire when Harold Ballard sold Leafs radio rights to another station.

His son Bill Hewitt took over TV from his father round about 1960. The CBC began using Bob Cole in the 1970′s on the radio and a bit on TV sometimes replacing Bill Hewitt which was very hard for me to take. When Bill Hewitt gave up the play by play role because of ill health in 1981 Bob Cole took over his job. Growing up on the Hewitts and Danny Gallivan, it took me a very long time to get used to Bob Cole but eventually I did and he is still a wonderful play by play man.

As Jeremy notes, looking to the future the CBC does have a problem. Mark Lee is growing into a decent play by play guy but is a little ordinary. Dean Brown’s problem is that since he is the primary Ottawa play by play guy he is too identified with them. In retrospect the CBC made a big mistake when they let Cris Cuthbert go to TSN/CTV. CBC needs new blood on their broadcasts but good play by play guys don’t grow on trees.

Bottom line for me on Bob Cole is I hope he knows when he needs to go himself and is allowed to bow out gracefully.

Ryan suggested some more new blood for Hockey Night:

I like Cole–he makes mistakes, but he still gives a great sense of the flow of a game. My perfect world would have Hughson as the #1a and Cole as #1b of sorts…Hughson as the HNIC guy who gets the All-Star Game, finals, Winter Classic, all the ‘events’, while Cole is the hockey guy who doesn’t have to focus on shilling the importance of trumped-up games. Keep Cole in sort of the role Dick Enberg had on NFL broadcasts, only more important–he’s not the top guy, but he just oozes respectability.

As for CBC and looking to the future…it’s never something they’ve been good at, because it’s never something they’ve needed to be good at. Foster pretty much hand-picked his son as his successor, Danny Gallivan was around for decades, and even Bob Cole’s been a top national guy for going on 40 years. Whenever they’ve had younger talent waiting in the wings–Dan Kelly, Ken Daniels, Chris Cuthbert–they’ve always ended up going elsewhere before they could move into HNIC’s big chair.

When Cuthbert was let go, people had much the same debate they’ve been having in the comments here–who else could be number two and eventual number one? Mark Lee wasn’t anywhere near ready, and Don Wittman was too old to have a future ahead of him. So Hughson was brought in, over objections that–like what people are saying above about Dean Brown–he was too identifiable with one team (in his case, the Canucks). Which is odd, as it’s not like either Hewitt or Brian MacFarlane or Dick Irvin or Danny Gallivan or Jim Robson, the legends of HNIC, weren’t completely identified with particular teams.

I think CBC will need to look outside the network (not a big deal, as for a long time they had a policy of *exclusively* looking outside the network for new talent) for the next top-flight announcer. Jeff Marek’s clearly being groomed for something, and has done a bit of play-by-play, but is much better in studio. Bruce Rainnie and Elliotte Friedman aren’t any better than Lee or Brown, and Steve Armitage, while an interesting choice, is better suited to sports with a slower pace or single story.

I doubt Cuthbert would jump back just to get the job he had at CBC (especially now that TSN’s given him the Grey Cup carrot), and I don’t see Gord Miller leaving the network he’s been with forever. Joe Bowen certainly has the voice and the cachet, he’s up there in years, but if CBC can scoop him up, might be the best choice for the Leafs/7:00 game until a younger face is ready. I’ll throw in the Blues’ John Kelly as an outside shot because of his connections to HNIC’s past, no idea if he’d want the job though.

All in all, great stuff gang.  Feel free to continue your discussion of Cole’s work here.

3 Responses to YOUR TAKE: The Bob Cole Debate

  1. kevin says:

    Fred Cusick is not walking thru that door…………..

  2. leafsfan1967 says:

    This discussion just goes to show how much people care about who calls the games and this obviously, is a highly personal choice. I’ll be looking for an online source tonight so I don’t have to watch JB EXCLUSIVELY on Versus…

  3. david graham says:

    I don’t agree–Bob Cole should have retired years ago—he simply won’t leave-there were only three decent announcers since the Foster Hewitt days—Dan Kelly (who was the play by play announcer for the St. Louis Blues and covered the NHL for CBS-(in fact he did the play by play for the famous Orr overtime goal), Danny Gallivan (despite his overdramatic play calling at times) and Bill Hewitt (who had to retire due to a blood disorder that ultimately claimed his life). Bob Cole is no where near any of these men–in fact he is mediocre at best. I think he hangs on because CBC either has no one else to replace him or his ego is such that he won’t step down (which I think is the actual reason)

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