After 25 years with Global Edmonton, beloved weather specialist and TV host Mike Sobel retired on Friday.
When it comes to broadcasting, Sobel has done it all. For years, he got up in the middle of the night and spent the early morning hours preparing his weather segments for when the news began at 5 a.m.
Many Albertans spent their lives getting ready for the day alongside his weather forecasts and Sobel said he wants to be remembered as someone who had a lot of energy, a big smile, and did his best to get the morning going and make people happy.
“Sure we’ve got the tough news that we have to get through. But I was kind of in between all of that: a segue between those tough news stories.
“So I try to make a point of — sure, trying to be as specific and accurate as I can with the weather — but but also trying to make it as entertaining as I possibly could,” he said while speaking with Carole Anne Devaney on Global News at 5 on Thursday. (Interview below)
Sobel announced his retirement last month. He is a legend for many in our community and many of his own coworkers grew up watching him on TV.
“It’s hard to wrap up in a few sentences what he’s meant to the morning news and to me,” said Global News Morning co-anchor Erin Chalmers.
Chalmers said working with Sobel has been a highlight of her career.
“I was born and raised in Edmonton, so Mike was always on our TV. The second I started on the morning news, he welcomed me with open arms. He offered support and advice, and taught me how important it is to just be yourself.”
Co-anchor Vinesh Pratap echoed that sentiment.
“I’ve worked with Mike directly for the last two years on Global News Morning. But I knew him before I worked with him — just watching him on the TV as a viewer!”
“What you see on air, is who Mike is: a genuine man who’s humble, committed, funny and always willing to give anything a chance.”
Edmontonians began watching Sobel when the station was still called ITV, appearing since the mid-eighties on shows like Hi Q, Four O’Clock Rock, many telethons and New Year’s Eve countdowns.
“Mike is up for anything and everything, and that’s why he’s the best. I don’t think there’s anything he won’t try at least once,” Chalmers said.
But it’s perhaps his hosting of Disney Afternoon in the early 1990s that Sobel is still most fondly known for.
“So here we are in 2022. I’m being honest with you when I say 80 per cent of the people who come up to me nowadays still make a reference to Disney Afternoon. They’ll even say to me things like, ‘Okay, so you’re retiring now, can you do a reboot?’ And they’re serious. They’re not joking,” Sobel said.
Traffic reporter Daintre Christensen has worked with Sobel for 15 years and said every one has been filled with countless memories and laughter.
“He will never miss an opportunity to generate some fun and laughter at our expense, and he has taught me wholeheartedly not to take myself too seriously and just go with it,” she said.
Every Halloween, the pair surprised viewers – and staff – with matching costumes.
Some memorable combinations included Princess Peach and Wario, Sonny and Cher, Beetlejuice and Lydia, and “Doc” Brown & Marty McFly from Back to the Future.
Christensen and Sobel have both been involved in the MS Bike Tour for many years and she called it a rewarding experience.
“Being a co-emcee for the bike tour with him for nearly a decade has shown me how much of a pro he is, because we can ad-lib whenever an unexpected situation arises and just make a great moment out of it,” Christensen said.
Sobel said it sounds cliché, but it is very difficult to walk away from a job that never really felt like one.
He says he has fond memories of being live on location and having to think fast on his feet. He also holds a special place in his heart for working with children, especially visitors from the Kids with Cancer Society.
Every year, young people from the Kids With Cancer Society spent the day learning what it’s like to be a reporter with various Global Edmonton staff.
The visit is part of a Dream Experience, which is an auction item at the Beaded Journey Gala every spring.
“They’re going through these treatments, with needle pricks and treatments, and chemo.”
Sobel always got the kids to come on air with him.
“You say to them at the end of the interview, ‘Do you want to come out and do the weather with me? Yeah!'”
It was the retirement of long-time evening news anchor Gord Steinke earlier this year which prompted Sobel to consider his own future.
After 43 years in the industry, he decided now is the time to move on.
“I was thinking, ‘My health is good, I’m active, I want to do things, spend time with family, maybe now’s the right time to do it,'” Sobel said, adding his final week has been emotional.
In the end, he said he wants to spend more time with family (he is married to a fitness instructor and they have two adult sons who live on the West Coast) and put a few more kilometres on his bike. No more 2 a.m. alarm clocks!
“Getting up as early as we do is not easy, but it’s co-workers like Mike that make it not only bearable but enjoyable,” Chalmers said.
“To say I am going to miss him is a huge understatement. We are losing a big piece of our morning family.”
Sobel grew up in Toronto where he attended York University.
He spent a lot of time working at the campus radio station which led to his interest in the media.
Sobel began his radio career in Weyburn, Sask. before moving to Regina and then working at various stations in Edmonton, like CFRN, CJAX, KING, CISN and MAGIC 101.
One of his favourite radio memories was taking two listeners on a trip to New York, where they attended a Garth Brooks concert in Central Park in front of 250,000 fans.
Pratap says Sobel leaves big shoes to fill.
“All of us at Global News are just everyday citizens of this place called Edmonton and Mike exemplifies the best of the place we call home.
“His commitment to this city and region is reflected by the enormous amount of time he has volunteered in the community, something that is unmatched!”
Sobel’s last day with Global Edmonton was Dec. 23. The station will be hiring a new weather anchor.