May 14, 2011
Thanks for everything, Coach
By GREG OLIVER - Producer, SLAM! Wrestling
I ask wrestlers all the time about who their mentors were, but I don't think I've ever been asked about mine.
But "Coach" Glenn Cole, who died Friday, was one of them.
He was the Toronto Sun wrestling writer, a Saturday column he wrote with the same flair that he did his countless hockey columns.
Though I worked at the Sun too, I never worked in the sports department, so I didn't know him too well until I moved to the start-up website for the newspaper chain, Canoe.ca. A little while after the launch in March 1996, John Powell and I started a wrestling section for SLAM! Sports, based on the fact that there were weekly wrestling columns in the papers in Toronto, Ottawa and Calgary.
Coach became a resource as John and I grew the SLAM! Wrestling brand.
He was also an invaluable sounding board. We'd pass controversial stories past Coach for his thoughts.
But his most important role might have been talking me down after sitting through another ridiculous, relentless rant by then-WWE Canada president Carl DeMarco. Those who know DeMarco don't need any more info than that; for the rest of you, let me try to explain.
DeMarco thought that the world revolved around him, and was ultra protective of the WWE (then WWF) product, like a mama bear protecting her cubs.
If he thought that he or any of his wrestlers had been maligned in any way, DeMarco had no qualms about calling up and yelling into the phone. Just typing this now, I can feel his venom, and picture my cubicle neighbors Dan and Elizabeth aghast as they heard the nastiness coming across the line.
Coach had been through worse, as a respected writer on the hockey beat in the Canadiens-mad city of Montreal, and would patiently listen as I would complain and vent.
Circumstances changed through the years, we dealt less with DeMarco directly, and Coach became more of a desk guy at the Sun.
And then his health went south.
No one should be in their late 50s and forced to move into a retirement home, as Coach had to in Brantford, of all places. He'd never married and had no kids, so this was his new home.
His sight was never great, and got worse. His body just didn't cooperate.
Still, he had his computer, and could send out emails. He continued to follow hockey with a passion, and would share his observances of the game, and sports in general, on an infrequent basis.
We'd talk every so often, maybe once a year.
When we did the book, SLAM! Wrestling: Shocking Stories from the Squared Circle, Coach was a big part of it, since he scored the biggest of the big interviews, thanks to his ties to the Sun -- The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin at the height of their superstardom.
A few months back, I was headed to Brantford for the celebration of the life of Neil Carr, who wrestled as Mad Dog Rex. He was one of the early supporters of my work, when I was just a teenager writing about wrestling. He allowed me access to the backstage and a little about his life and the wacky world he worked in. I owed him that much.
I also had arranged to take Coach out for dinner. But he wasn't at the retirement home, and it took about 20 minutes until I could find someone to tell me that he was at the Brantford General Hospital. So I went there instead, visited with my old friend, who couldn't move much, was tired, and didn't look good.
Leaving there, I didn't think it would be the last time I'd talk to him, or get an email from him, but it was.
Now, about to leave for Brantford today, to attend the massive Brawl in the Bush II show at the Civic Centre, with Hulk Hogan headlining, I'm scrambling to get to his funeral too.
It's the least I could do, Coach.
Rest in peace. Thanks for everything.
Greg Oliver has been writing about pro wrestling since 1985, and is the author of five books: SLAM! Wrestling: Shocking Stories from the Squared Circle; Benoit: Wrestling with the Horror That Destroyed a Family and Crippled a Sport (with Steven Johnson, Heath McCoy and Irv Muchnick); The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Heels (with Steven Johnson); The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Tag Teams (also with Johnson) and The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Canadians. Order them all from the SLAM! Wrestling Store. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.