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Cole never dreamed of NHL game in hometown

by Brian Compton
Just when you thought legendary play-by-play announcer Bob Cole had done it all in his line of work, he'll soon get to do something he's never had the opportunity of doing -- he'll get to call an NHL game in his hometown.

Cole, a Hall of Famer and a native of St. John's, Newfoundland, will be in the broadcast booth on Sept. 26 when the Winnipeg Jets face the Ottawa Senators at the Mile One Centre as part of the 2011 Kraft Hockeyville festivities.

It'll be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for Cole, who never in a million years believed he'd ever get the chance to announce an NHL game for CBC's "Hockey Night In Canada" basically right up the street from where he was raised.

"Of course not," Cole told "How could you even dream of that? An NHL game, two NHL teams and playing in your hometown ... I wouldn't dream of that. But here we go."

An announcer for almost six decades, Cole aspired to be an athlete just like most other boys growing up. But once he accepted the fact that he'd have to come up with something else for a career, he replaced his hockey stick with a headset.

The rest is history.

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"I worked at a radio station and I played hockey and baseball and soccer and everything else," said Cole, who has worked for CBC since 1972 and called every Stanley Cup Final between 1984 and 2008. "I was doing a lot of sports and just tried hockey. It kind of worked out. I don't know how well in the beginning, but I hope I've gotten better. I just moved into it naturally from a D.J. and news reader."

It's a big year for hockey in Newfoundland, particularly in St. John's. Not only will the Mile One Centre host the Kraft Hockeyville game between the Jets and Sens, but AHL hockey is also returning to the province's capital city as the Jets' top minor-league club will reside in St. John's. The IceCaps will play their first home game on Oct. 14 against Hamilton.

St. John's was home to the Toronto Maple Leafs' AHL affiliate until the club decided to move it to Toronto in 2005.

"We've got the farm team now for the Winnipeg Jets," Cole said. "Everybody's looking forward to the American Hockey League. The St. John's Maple Leafs were successful here. But Toronto, for whatever reason, they decided to move the team out of Newfoundland to Toronto. It's been a few years. It'll be great. It's all sold out."

Monday's game is also sold out. A large number of tickets will go to the folks in Conception Bay South, the small town roughly 20 minutes outside of St. John's that racked up close to 1 million votes to win the Kraft Hockeyville competition. Just like Cole, they'll need a few minutes for it to sink in that an NHL game is being played in their province.

"It's going to be big ... I know they're excited about it," Cole said. "They've guaranteed that Conception Bay South will get tickets. It's totally sold out. I think it'll be fantastic."
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