Were it not for Bob Cole’s epic performance during last spring’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, the iconic play-by-play man may have never become an app.
Oh, baby! Cole’s enchanting cadence and unmistakable Coleisms—the perfect soundtrack to the Kings-Blackhawks slugfest of a Western Conference final last spring—was regularly trending on Twitter and had hockey fans worried that the 81-year-old’s days in the booth might be over.
Jason Murdoch, an associate producer at CBC and a guy lucky enough to have shared Cole’s arena perch since 2004, had a eureka moment.
“Every time I’m in the booth beside him I get chills,” said Murdoch over the phone Monday from Edmonton as he prepared to work Monday’s Oilers-Jets game. “I wanted to give him some tribute, give him some love.”
Murdoch, who had toyed with the notion of challenging himself to create an app, knew then he wanted it to revolve around Cole’s voice—the one that guided him through his favourite games as a kid, the one he sat next to as Mats Sundin scored a hat trick to reach 500 goals.
The seed for the Bob Cole Soundboard was planted.
But once he had the blueprint outlined, the 38-year-old says it took him two weeks just to scrounge up the courage to ask his co-worker to participate.
After Murdoch explained what he wanted from Cole—“He doesn’t really know the app world”—Cole approved immediately. Cole then got his lawyer’s go-ahead, and the two recorded all of the app’s sound bites in a three-a-half-minute session in a Tampa hotel room.
Not wanting to bother with the rights fees and complications that might arise from using Cole’s calls from past games, Murdoch started fresh by recording the legend reciting his most famous expressions—Everything is happening! How about that! Hang on to your hats, folks!—giving fans “spontaneous access to Bob.”
Murdoch was initially concerned about operating the recording equipment, but Cole soon squashed his worries.
“I know how to use a microphone,” Cole deadpanned. “I’m a one-take guy.”
Murdoch paid a developer $600 to get his app iTunes-ready, and it hit the store Thursday, selling for $1.19. Though the Soundboard sold 143 downloads over its first weekend, the app’s creator believes sales will pick up in the playoffs, when Cole is at his best.
“He still gets nervous for games. You’d think it would be no big deal after (46) years of broadcasting,” Murdoch sayid. “All he’s concerned about is a great show.”
Murdoch is fielding requests for more Coleisms to be added to the app, and he’s contemplating developing something similar for other well-known commentators. He names Toronto’s Joe Bowen as a candidate.
Murdoch still hasn’t shown the final product to Cole. He considered doing it at Saturday’s Ottawa game, but Cole had his game face on. He didn’t want to disturb the legend.
“He’s always concentrating on the game,” Murdoch says. “He just wants to work.”