Now I’m Catching On: My Life On and Off the Air, by Bob Cole

Eight stars

Canadian broadcast legend, Bob Cole, brings readers an interesting look into his life in this short, but jam-packed, biographical piece. It is sure to open the eyes of those who take the time to peruse its pages, especially if they experienced the Saturday night ritual I did growing up in Canada. Cole takes the time to show his rise to fame through humble beginnings back in Newfoundland. Growing up while Newfoundland was still a British Dominion, Cole shows the reader how his simple home life did little to hinder his passions as a hockey and football (soccer) player, though there was always an interest to broadcast games and bring as much love to others as the famous broadcaster, Foster Hewitt, did for so many over the radio. Cole recounts a number of events that led to a life in broadcasting, from working the high seas through to recording himself high in the rafter during hockey game in and around St. John’s. Given a chance to use his energetic voice on the airwaves, Cole moved into his lifelong passion, first in radio and eventually making it onto television. His ability to turn a hockey game into a story helped shape a generation of hockey fans who tuned in to listen to him. Idolizing the aforementioned Hewitt and Danny Gallivan, Cole explores how he became the voice of CBC’s hockey broadcasts for over forty years. Along the way, there were a few key events that helped shape his life, including the ’72 Summit Series that saw Canada face-off against the Soviets for the greatest eight-game series that this country has ever witnessed. Cole explores not only his pre-game rituals, but also how he used his role to shape the game and forge long lasting friendships throughout the League. Taking the time in this book to reveal some health issues for the first time, Cole shows that he is a man like all others, though his voice and descriptions on Saturday nights helped turn a generation of Canadians into passionate lovers of a game that is the lifeblood of a nation. Truly insightful and inspiring, Bob Cole knows just how to tell a story, both on and off the ice.

When I first learned that Cole had penned a book of this nature, I knew that I had to read it. While it is by no means a complete memoir or biography of the life and time of Robert Cole, it does permit the reader to parachute into some of the key events in Cole’s professional life. Peppered with anecdotes, Cole pulls together a narrative that shows his vast experience and knowledge with broadcasting in the National Hockey League and his rise to prominence as two of the great English broadcasters in Canada, Foster Hewitt and Danny Gallivan, were reaching their zenith (or had passed the torch onto the next generations already). With such prominent broadcasters before him, Cole did all he could by taking the job seriously, but was not immune to having fun. His rituals and experiences come from all chapters of this piece and offers the curious reader a look behind the scenes as to how those three hours on Saturdays (and more frequently in the playoffs) come together. Truth be told, I would have loved a book that was more chronological and in-depth about the man and his life, down to some of the minutiae, though this was a wonderful primer and leaves the door open to something more down the road. I feel as though Bob Cole is an essential part of my growing up and helped me develop a love of hockey broadcasts. I am sorry that the next generation will not have his regular broadcasts to help shape their passion. He has left large shoes to fill, which is the sign of a true legend.

Kudos, Mr. Cole on this wonderful piece. I loved the mix of seriousness, humour, and dedication. You are a Canadian legend and someone who is a true ambassador for greatness.