Gushue says Cole gave young Newfoundlanders belief that they could achieve big things

Canadian curling champion Brad Gushue first struck up a friendship with Bob Cole some 20 years ago during the NHL lockout.

The legendary broadcaster — an elite curler himself in his younger days — would often watch the up-and-coming skip throw stones at the local club in their hometown of St. John's, N.L.

"At times during my career, I'd talk to him about how things were going," Gushue said. "The one thing with Bob, he was always very honest with me and very direct. He gave me some good advice."

Cole died Wednesday night surrounded by his family, his daughter, Megan Cole, told the CBC. He was 90.

The longtime voice of "Hockey Night in Canada" represented Newfoundland at the national men's curling championship on two occasions. Cole remained a keen observer of the Roaring Game and stayed in touch with Gushue over the years.

"I think for us in Newfoundland, particularly when I was growing up, any time you saw someone doing something on a national or international stage, it really gave you belief that you could go ahead and achieve that," Gushue said. "Whether it was in broadcasting, in the arts or in sports in general, that belief goes a long way for a young person."

Gushue went on to become one of Canada's most accomplished skips. His breakout performance came at the 2006 Turin Games when he won Olympic gold.

Cole was also in Italy at the time to broadcast hockey games. He made a point of being at the medal plaza to watch Gushue, Mark Nichols, Russ Howard and Jamie Korab receive their hardware.

"We (noticed) this one guy in the middle of 10,000 people that were there to watch the medal ceremony," Gushue said. "He was in this baby blue and red jacket — the CBC Winter Olympics jacket — and he was jumping up and down. The closer we looked it was like, 'Oh my God. That's Bob.'

"Sure enough we saw him later that night and he said he was out there. For a guy like that to make the effort, to go through the hassle to be at that ceremony and nestle himself within all those people — and to be that excited about it — it certainly had a lasting effect on me."

Cole, who also played in the Canadian mixed curling championships on two occasions, was inducted into the Newfoundland and Labrador Sports Hall of Fame in 1997.

His radio career began in 1954. Cole called hockey games in his home province before becoming a national presence on the CBC.

"Seeing him on the biggest platform doing Hockey Night in Canada, doing the Leafs games and the Canadiens games, it makes you believe that you can achieve something a little bit bigger than sometimes what you think you can do," Gushue said.

"(Especially) when you're from a small province and you don't see that many people making it on such a big scale as he did."

Cole would often check in on Gushue's team and sometimes watch the squad in person. One appearance came at the 2017 Brier, a couple days before Gushue won his first national men's championship in front of an adoring home crowd.

"He really just wanted to let me know that he was behind us and Newfoundland was behind us," Gushue said of their 15-minute locker-room chat.

The veteran skip and his teammates sometimes visited Cole at hockey games over the years and would say hello to him in the booth.

"I think he should be remembered as an icon really," Gushue said. "A broadcasting legend."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 26, 2024.

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Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press