The NHL season is deep into November and, as people across Canada settle in for the deep freeze, a familiar voice greets them as they cozy up to their televisions. It is a voice that has been warming up Canadian winters since 1973 – 1969, if you include his Hockey Night in Canada radio career. It is a voice that broadcast the Stanley Cup Finals for 29 straight years. The voice in question, of course, belongs to one Robert C. – “Bob” – Cole.
Jim Hughson and Mike “Doc” Emrick are wizards with words, using vocabularies that would make even the most accomplished wordsmith scratch his or her head. Gord Miller and Chris Cuthbert are crisp and precise, with a knack for the brilliant soundbite. Joe Bowen wears his heart on his sleeve every night. Certainly, there are many talented television broadcasters in the game of hockey throughout Canada and the United States. But none can quite bring to a game that which is brought by Bob Cole.
Truth be told, he really doesn’t say all that much whilst on the air. And he has never been the most accurate of announcers. But he gets television. A radio commentator has a much different job – after all, the audience cannot see the game at hand. Bob Cole understands that the television viewer can see what is going on, so he doesn’t feel the need to comment on every single little event. He realises that his job as a television broadcaster is, instead, to communicate the elements of that game that don’t always translate well to the viewers at home – the atmosphere in the building, the momentum of the play, the gravity of the situation.
I would wager that even the casual hockey fan could walk past a room where a Bob Cole-called game was being shown and, without a glance at the screen nor a query of a viewer, could ascertain the closeness of the play, the importance of the situation and the period in which the game finds itself. All this based on a few seconds of Bob Cole commentary, you ask? Go ahead; try it.
More than just being descriptive, he has the unique ability that is shared by few others, most notably elite actors: the ability to make the audience feel – feel what those out there performing on the stage – or on the ice –are feeling. Who didn’t stand up and cheer when Canada won the Olympic Gold Medal in 2002? Who doesn’t get chills when listening to Cole call Todd Marchant’s 1996-97 series-winning goal for the Oilers against the heavily-favoured Dallas Stars? If you’ve got six minutes, why not lose your mind as Cole’s voice runs out of octaves during Game Seven of the 1989 Smythe Division Semi-Finals?
Detractors have long wished for Cole to retire. They feel that the game has passed him by, that there are other announcers out there that could do a better job. But for any hockey fan, love him or hate him, Bob Cole is the voice that calls the hockey games in your head. There is even an app for that. He’s been calling the best league in the world for nearly fifty years. How many others have been at the top of their profession for that long? It is simply astounding.
And therefore, Bob Cole deserves our respect. He had the courage to follow his dream and, once he achieved it, has never let anybody take it away. At 82, he is still going strong, calling games for SportsNet after Rogers took over from his old home, CBC, as the national broadcaster for the NHL. People will say he’s too old, but “too old” for what, I ask? Age has nothing to do with it. He has, quite simply, been the best hockey commentator on television of our generation, if not of all time. So he can call games as long as he damn well wants to.
The uncanny abilities of the world’s greatest players are often taken for granted until they leave the game. I often feel sadness when these legends of hockey retire – sadness at not having watched them more often during their playing careers. And I know that the hockey world will feel the same way if Bob Cole ever decides to hang ‘em up. That’s a big “if”, though.
All illustrations by Andrew M. Greenstein, The unofficial NHL Uniform Database
Apparently I never learned my ABCs and therefore put Arizona before Anaheim. Let’s just smooth over that and get right into it.
The Anaheim Ducks have, by and large, been blessed when it comes to expansion teams in the National Hockey League. Stars like Paul Kariya and Teemu Selänne graced their roster – then composed of Mighty Ducks – early on. They made two Stanley Cup Finals in four seasons, taking the Devils to seven games in 2003 before winning it all in 2007. They have been one of the most dominant teams in the Western Conference for the past few years and, despite a rough start to this season, are expected to contend for the Cup yet again. However, they’ve never quite figured out the uniform side of things…until now.
It all began with a colour scheme that resembled what one might expect to find in an Oompa Loompa’s vomit. Jade and eggplant were the dominant colours, though the aggressive-looking, disembodied, duck-shaped-hockey-mask-flanked-by-two-hockey-sticks logo was not bad at all. It retained enough of the cartoonishness of the team’s inspiration – the 1992 film, The Mighty Ducks, but also was an appropriate amount of aggressive for a hockey team. Even the jersey’s novel diagonal striping was simple and well-done. So, though the colour scheme was most definitely ill-advised, it wasn’t all bad. That is, until their third season when the so-called “Wild Wing” jersey made its debut… How they could expect grown adults to skate out in front of thousands of people – and compete with another team of grown adults – wearing THAT is beyond me.
Since that unfortunate era, which produced one of the all-time, most universally-panned jerseys in league history (then again, it was the ‘90s. Be honest, what were YOU wearing?), the Ducks have tweaked their kit numerous times, giving us uniforms that were ugly… (see below)
…and, despite a change in colour scheme and a Stanley Cup, boring. (again, see below)
However, several years into the Reebok Edge uniform system, the Ducks finally changed their ways, giving fans a new Home and Away jersey, and, this season, a new third jersey. (see below for full kit)
And, this time, I have to say, I really think they’ve got it right. I’ve never been a huge fan of the Reebok Edge uniform system and the corresponding cacophony of alterations made to team kits, specifically with regards to altering tail striping to go along with Reebok Edge’s weird, unnatural, prescription for vertical striping (Colorado, anyone?). That said, if there is one jersey set on which it totally works, it is that of the Ducks. The sweeping, diagonal tail striping from their original – and Cup-winning – jerseys remains, but has been turned on its side for the Home and Away jerseys (mercifully, the sleeve striping remains intact). Also, orange has been input as a major component of the colour scheme, rather than just an accent. Even the (duck foot? duck in flight? maybe both?) logo is a marked improvement over the rather dull “Ducks” which graced the original redesign. The font is just ducky, as well – cheeky enough with flourishes to be interesting, but still legible and professional. That these complex jerseys are perfectly contrasted with plain black pants – save for a single, thin orange stripe – only strengthens my conviction that Anaheim has a balanced, sharp-looking uniform set. My only real qualms are that the main logo would function better as a secondary emblem and that the fake neck-tie reminds me of Hannibal Lecter’s mask.
Which brings us to their newly-minted third jersey. The original logo is back, this time set on a gold background. The ducky D logo is up on the shoulders. Combine that with an orange backdrop and traditional, horizontal striping and the Ducks have one of the finest pieces of jersey craftsmanship worn in the NHL today. It is simply phenomenal, and ranks up towards the top of my list of favourite jerseys, not just for this year, but for all time. It doesn’t have the history of a Montréal or a Chicago but, judged on aesthetic appeal alone, how can you keep it out of the top five? Come on, just look at it! It is bright and flashy without being annoying. It is complex without being busy. It is new-age without being offensive to tradition. What’s not to like?
After several disappointing ends to otherwise great seasons, the Ducks should vie for a spot in the Stanley Cup Final this coming Spring. They’ve got a championship-calibre team to ice. They’ve now got championship-calibre jerseys to wear while doing it.
Steve Dangle has been getting a lot of heat lately, and I don’t understand why. For the uninitiated, Dangle started making videos following every Toronto Maple Leafs game on a webcam in his room. Well, when I say webcam… It was clearly some kind of root vegetable. Anyway. Along with the videos, known as Leafs Fan Reactions, or LFRs, he has since done work for the OHL, and CHL, the World Juniors, the AHL and, now, the NHL. He has worked at theleafsnation.com, LeafsTV, CBC and, now, Rogers SportsNet. Nike even sponsored him to go to the 2010 Winter Olympics. And this is just what I know from following the guy; there very well might be more. The man has paid his dues.
Young guy, intrepid blogger, works his way up from nothing, makes The Show… Who doesn’t love a story like that?
Well, a lot of people, evidently. As a major presence in SportsNet’s online platform, Dangle’s work has been promoted in their social media releases, especially recently. However, some people have been voicing their concerns A) with his content showing up in their News Feed and B) with the fact that he is an employee at SportsNet in the first place. There is a petition – which, to be fair, has been mercilessly trolled by fans of Dangle – to get his videos removed from SportsNet’s site altogether. Some are even calling for him to be fired.
Now, if you go into StarBucks, order a drink you’ve never had before and then realise you don’t like it, do you demand that the barista be fired? No, the next time you come in, you get something else. If you don’t like Dangle’s stuff, don’t watch/read/listen to it. No one’s putting a gun to your head. He’s got over 31,000 subscribers on YouTube, over 33,000 followers on Twitter and a podcast sponsored by Panago Pizza so, obviously, some people like him. If you are not one of them, that’s fine. How does he, in any way, affect your life? This is his job and he’s making his own way in the world, so why are you demanding his head?
Hockey is, let’s be honest, the 4th most popular of the 4 major professional sports in North America. We hockey fans are a passionate bunch but we occupy but a small niche of the sports market. We aren’t like the NFL, for example, where each and every team has hundreds of thousands, if not millions of devoted, diehard fans. Some NHL teams do, undoubtedly. But many do not. Unfortunately, as untapped as many hockey markets are, the NHL is, and has always been, a stodgy institution that is stubbornly resistant to change. Two current examples: the NHL’s reluctance to discipline its players and protect its stars, and the disregard with which the league has treated both the short and the long-term effects of concussions. Gary Bettman, despite obvious demand, refused to develop a league-sponsored replacement for CapGeek. Too many goalies getting good at this playing-the-puck witchcraft? Better put in the Trapezoid. Going back a few years, helmets were not universally mandatory until the 1997-98 season, despite Bill Masterton’s passing in 1968. The NHL as a league and as a community is not a brilliant institution.
A good chunk of the media coverage of hockey is equally conservative and reactionary. Think of the terms “good stick”, “student of the game” and “play the game the right way”, and let me know what image pops into your head. The hockey establishment, writers and fans alike, need to understand that there are many ways to enjoy and think about hockey, and that they do not have a monopoly on it. For instance, analytics have been around – and reliably predicting outcomes – for years but it was really only this past season that much of the mainstream hockey media began paying attention to them. An energetic new – usually younger, but not exclusively so – generation of people covering the game is emerging. Dangle is part of this movement, and seems to be doing rather well with it. Pushback is essential in order to generate healthy debate. But there is no need to character-assassinate someone.
Steve presents topics in a fresh, exciting way that is humorous to many of us “established” hockey fans, but also inclusionary to those who might be new to the game. After all, hockey can be an intimidating sport to take up as a fan. Why not make it easy and fun, instead of grumbling about the uninitiated? And for those of us who grew up with the game, he has an ability to pass almost instantaneous judgement on an issue – and be right about it most times. When looking at an issue, it is exceedingly difficult not to experience an immediate gut reaction towards one extreme or the other. Most people, professional journalists and otherwise, need time to think about and process the situation in order to draw some semblance of a reasonable conclusion. Dangle can, seemingly, do that off the top of his head. That is a rare gift.
We have a curious instinct as human beings to instantly harangue any attempts at change, especially when it conflicts with our own personal views. However, we did not develop the civilisation we live in and enjoy today by being stagnant. So, to the hockey community: calm down, open the window and let some fresh air in. There's room enough for everyone.