TORONTO -- Bob Cole was the soundtrack of a nation.

For five decades, the iconic pipes of the St. John’s, Newfoundland, native became part of the cultural fabric of Canada, his play-by-play calls on "Hockey Night in Canada" painting a vivid verbal portrait of the action on the ice.

Just ask his peers.

“His voice was a Stradivarius,” "Hockey Night in Canada" lead play-by-play broadcaster Chris Cuthbert said Thursday after learning of the passing of Cole, who died in St. John’s Wednesday night surrounded by loved ones, according to his family. He was 90.

One of Cuthbert’s favorite Cole memories occured years ago during one of the broadcaster’s charity golf tournament weekends in Newfoundland. Cole gathered a group to go up with him at 5 a.m. to the top of Signal Hill, which towers over St. John’s, to watch the sun rise over the Atlantic.

“There’s Bob, singing Frank Sinatra, who he loved, in the wee hours celebrating the new day’s arrival in Canada,” Cuthbert said. “It might be the most Canadian thing ever.”

Not quite. To many, his calls every Saturday night during the season were.

“If you heard his voice, it was comfort,” former "Hockey Night in Canada" play-by-play broadcaster Jim Hughson said. “If you heard his voice you knew it was hockey. You knew it was Canada. And you knew it was either Saturday night or the playoffs.”

In 2016, Cole was awarded the Order of Canada. For so many of his peers and admirers who paid tribute to him Thursday, it’s just another chapter of the man they all consider to be a national legend.

Chris Cuthbert ('Hockey Night in Canada' play-by-play broadcaster, 1984-2004, 2020-present)

“If there was a Mount Rushmore of hockey broadcasters in this country, he’d be a shoo-in alongside Foster Hewitt, Danny Gallivan and Dan Kelly. I mean, if you think of it, Foster and Bob were the voice of this sport for a combined 90 years. Ninety years!

“There are so many calls he made that are iconic. But for me, the call that was vintage Bob Cole perfection was during Game 2 of the 1991 Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Minnesota North Stars when Mario Lemieux went end to end, through a pair of defensemen, and scored. The astonishment in his voice when he called out “Oh Baby,” well, it captured what everyone was feeling.”

Cole calls Lemieux's goal: "Oh my heavens. What a goal. What a move. Lemieux. Oh baby."

Jim Hughson ('HNIC' play-by-play broadcaster, 2005-21)

“He had the wonderful ability to capture a moment. But it was more than that. He could anticipate something special about to happen. If you were in the other room doing the dishes and you heard Bob’s voice start to get excited, you knew you were being primed for one of those moments.

“I think about when the Russians left the ice midway through an exhibition game against the Philadelphia Flyers in 1976. To this day people still remember Bob’s iconic call of “They’re going home!” You know, if people are mimicking something you said decades after you said it, you’re doing something right.

“I had the privilege of calling 12 Finals. He called three times that many. That says it all. Amazing.”

Ron MacLean ('HNIC' host, 1984-2014, 2016-present)

“For Bob, his passion started as a kid growing up in the Maritimes when he first heard the great Foster Hewitt open up his broadcasts with the words “Hello Canada and hockey fans in the United States and Newfoundland.” Bob never forgot those words. For him, it was all about the connection with the audience, with the country. When he was in the booth it was about more than just the game or the broadcast. He was trying to bring the audience to center ice at Maple Leaf Gardens, at the Montreal Forum …

“He was the sound of hockey. I’ve said it before: His voice came on you like smoke from a campfire.”

Cole's "how about that" call of Gilmour's goal in second overtime

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