Oh Baby! Veteran hockey broadcaster Bob Cole open to return to booth

Veteran hockey broadcaster Bob Cole turns 85 later this month and still has no plans to retire.

He’s not calling as many regular-season games as he’d like, and the disappointment of being left out of the NHL playoff mix still lingers.

But Cole would like to return next season and Sportsnet president Scott Moore said this week that he’d like to have him back to call a few games. Chances are good that the legendary play-by-play man will be back in the booth.

“I’d like to do more games than I have been doing, I mean 10 or 15 games is not a lot,” Cole said Wednesday. “But 15 or 20 games, that would be great. A round or two in the playoffs. Keep me involved and being part of it. Hockey Night has been my life.”

Moore said Tuesday at a Toronto media availability that he has had preliminary talks with Cole and that they’ll likely meet in the summer — like they’ve done in recent off-seasons — to discuss plans.

Cole has worked a reduced schedule over the last few years but said he was “very surprised” when he was told he wouldn’t be working any post-season games.

“They’ve got so many guys now, they can’t please everybody,” Cole told The Canadian Press from St. John’s. ”So I have to respect what they’re doing. I guess they’re trying out different guys.

“So I wasn’t doing playoffs for the first time in my career. I was disappointed of course, but I understand.”

Jim Hughson has served as one of the network’s top play-by-play announcers in recent seasons. He’s calling the Stanley Cup final between the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights.

Cole’s last game was the Ottawa Senators’ regular-season finale in Boston on Apr. 7. The word came down the next day.

“I got up early to get home and see the Masters,” he said. “I got a call saying that they’ve got their playoff (broadcaster) teams and I wasn’t involved, so that was it.”

Instead of getting ready for the post-season, Cole went to Florida with his son to do some golfing. He went to a couple Lightning games in Tampa and watched some playoff games on NBC.

Since he returned home, he has followed closely on television.

“It’s a great game,” Cole said. “I sure miss it, I know that. I’d rather be working than sitting back and watching. But everybody can’t work, so that’s the way it goes.”

The grind of a post-season run — loads of games, cross-country flights, morning practices, late nights at the rink — can be challenging for media members of any age.

Cole said in the past, he would get immersed in the process and didn’t feel that fatigued on the road.

“It’s gruelling but you’re so involved,” he said. “You get tired when it’s all over. That’s when it finally hits, like, ’Oh my God, I’m worn out.’ And you’ve got to get a little rest. But yes, it’s hectic but it’s work and it’s the kind of work that you love to do.

“You’re part of it and you feel it, just like the players. It’s total involvement: total, total, total. And I love that.”

Cole acknowledges that the day will eventually come when he’ll have to step aside. But the idea of retirement has not crossed his mind.

“I never ever gave it a thought, to be honest — never,” Cole said. “I’ve always felt like anybody that talks about retirement must not like what they’re doing very much. Why would you want to retire if you feel good, you feel involved, you’re interested and you’re pleased that people accept you in your job and you work together?

“You’re working with a great bunch of people and they’re all professionals. It’s the top game in the land and you’re a part of it. I’m very lucky and very fortunate. I never think of the day when it’s going to be over. I’m sure that day is coming somewhere. But I’m still ready to go.”

Hockey fans were quick to voice their displeasure earlier this spring when Cole was the odd man out. It was a popular topic on social media and Cole said the messages have been pouring in over the last two months.

“It’s really humbling, it’s blown me away,” he said. “The number of people who have called — and I don’t even know (some of) them – just saying, ‘We sure miss you and hang in there.’ It’s great really. I didn’t realize there were that many people listening.”

Cole has spent nearly five decades on Hockey Night in Canada and still gets butterflies before every game.

For now, he’s enjoying the action on the tube. But he can’t wait to get back in the booth for the 2018-19 campaign.

“I still feel good, I still feel I can do the job, I enjoy doing the job,” Cole said. “I sure miss it. I miss it badly. It’s been my life, it’s too bad. But I’m fortunate that my voice is OK, it’s hanging on thank God, and everything is going fine.

“I hope they do schedule me next year. Let’s get started and get going. I look forward to that for sure.”

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