Hockey Night in Canada

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Hockey Night in Canada
HNIC Logo.svg
The present logo used since 1998.
Format Sports
Presented by Foster Hewitt (radio 1931-1965)
Scott Young, Wes McKnight and Tom Foley (1957–1959)
Frank Selke Jr.
(Montreal 1960–1967)
Ward Cornell (1959–1972)
Dave Hodge (1972–1987)
Ron MacLean (1987–2014)
George Stroumboulopoulos (2014–present)
Starring Jim Hughson
Craig Simpson
Glenn Healy
Mark Lee
Kevin Weekes
Bob Cole
Garry Galley
Dean Brown
Greg Millen
Elliotte Friedman
Scott Oake
Mitch Peacock
Bruce Rainnie
Kelly Hrudey
P.J. Stock
Mike Milbury
Theme music composer Colin Oberst
Opening theme "The Hockey Theme"
"Canadian Gold" (2008–present)
Country of origin Canada
Camera setup multi-camera
Running time 360 minutes+
Production company(s) CNR Radio (1931-1933)
Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission (1933-1936)
CBC Sports (1936-2014)
Rogers Communications
Original channel CNR Radio (1931-1933)
Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission (1933-1936)
CBC Radio (1936-1976)
CBC Television (1952-present)
Original run Radio: 1931–1976
TV: October 11, 1952 – present
Related shows NHL on Sportsnet
External links

Hockey Night in Canada (often abbreviated Hockey Night or HNIC) is a branding used for Canadian television presentations of the National Hockey League. While the name has been used for all NHL broadcasts on CBC Television (regardless of the time of day), Hockey Night in Canada is primarily associated with its Saturday night NHL broadcasts, a practice originating from Saturday NHL broadcasts that began in 1931 on the CNR Radio network and continued on its successors, and debuting on television beginning in 1952. Initially only airing a single game weekly, the modern incarnation airs a weekly double-header, with game times normally at 7:00 and 10:00 p.m. (ET). The broadcast features various segments during the intermissions and between games (such as Don Cherry's Coach's Corner), as well as pre and post-game coverage of the night's games.

The Hockey Night in Canada brand is owned by the CBC[1] and was exclusively used by CBC Sports through the end of the 2013–14 NHL season. Beginning in the 2014–15 NHL season, the brand will be licensed to Rogers Communications for Rogers-produced Saturday NHL broadcasts airing on CBC Television as well as the Rogers-owned City and Sportsnet networks. Rogers had secured exclusive national multimedia rights to NHL games beginning in 2014-15, and will sub-licence Saturday night and playoff games to CBC, and French-language rights to TVA Sports.[2]



Hockey Night in Canada has its origins in the General Motors Hockey Broadcast which transmitted Saturday night hockey games of the Toronto Maple Leafs beginning in November 1931 over the Canadian National Railway radio network. In 1933, the CNR's successor, the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission (CRBC), commenced broadcasts of Montreal Canadiens and Montreal Maroons games on its Quebec stations.[3] In 1934, Imperial Oil of Canada took over the sponsorship from General Motors Products of Canada and the broadcast became known as the Imperial Esso Hockey Broadcast.[4][5] The broadcasts began at 9 p.m. Eastern Time (around the start of the second period of play). Starting in 1936, the games were broadcast on the CRBC's successor, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The series acquired its present title around the same time, coined by Foster Hewitt.[6] In much of Ontario and points west the show featured the Maple Leafs and were hosted by Gordon Calder with play-by-play announcer Hewitt and colour commentator Percy Lesueur.[3] Montreal broadcasts were hosted by Doug Smith and Elmer Ferguson broadcast for Montreal Maroons games in English and René Lecavalier broadcast Montreal Canadiens games in French. After the Maroons folded in 1938, Smith and Ferguson provided English broadcasts of Canadiens games. The great popularity of the radio show (and its announcer Foster Hewitt) across Canada made it an obvious choice for early Canadian network television programming.

Although never carried on any U.S. stations, the Hockey Night in Canada radio broadcasts became quite popular among listeners in the northern United States if a U.S.-based team (located in either Boston, Chicago, Detroit or New York City) was playing in Toronto on a particular Saturday night, thousands of fans in the U.S. city whose local team faced the Leafs would often listen to the CBC broadcast via skywave reception, with the game often drawing far more listeners during the HNIC broadcast period than any local station.

CBC Radio aired Saturday night HNIC broadcasts through 1965, then Sunday Night NHL Hockey through 1976, after which the games moved exclusively to television coverage nationally. In Toronto, CFRB (originally a CNR Radio affiliate) continued to simulcast Maple Leaf games for many years alongside CBC Radio's Toronto station CBL.[3]


Hockey Night in Canada began airing on Saturday nights on CBC Television in 1952, just weeks after television broadcasting commenced in Canada, retaining Esso as sponsor. It continued to feature regular season NHL games on the English network every Saturday evening during the NHL season, and retained many of the features such as the Hot Stove Lounge and the three stars selection, which originated as an Imperial Oil gasoline promotion and survived even as sponsorship eventually passed from Imperial to Molson and, later, Labatt.

Until the 1990s, there was only one game televised each Saturday night in any particular locality and up to 1968, regular season games were still not broadcast in their entirety. In the 1950s, the HNIC telecast followed the lead of the radio broadcast by coming on the air at 9 p.m. ET, with the game typically being joined in progress either just before the start or during the early portion of the second period. In the early 1960s, the broadcast time was moved ahead to 8:30 p.m. ET, which allowed the game to be joined in progress late in the first period. Starting in the fall of 1968, regular-season games were shown in their entirety with a broadcast start time of 8 p.m. ET.

Beginning with the 1966–67 NHL season, all games broadcast on HNIC were in colour.

In 1970–71, the Vancouver Canucks joined the NHL, meaning that there were now three possible venues for an HNIC telecast. During the 1979–80 and 1980–81, four more Canadian teams, the Edmonton Oilers, Quebec Nordiques, Winnipeg Jets, and Calgary Flames, joined the NHL. The Oilers and Flames were featured frequently; in contrast, as the Nordiques were owned by Carling-O'Keefe, a rival to the show's sponsor Molson, they were rarely shown.

After Wayne Gretzky was traded to the Los Angeles Kings in 1988, the network began showing occasional double-headers when Canadian teams visited Los Angeles to showcase the country's most popular player. These games were often joined in progress, as the regular start time for HNIC was still 8 p.m. Eastern Time and the Kings home games began at 7:30 p.m. Pacific Time (10:30 Eastern). Beginning in the 1995 season, weekly double-headers became the norm, with games starting at 7:30 Eastern and 7:30 Pacific, respectively. In 1998, the start times were moved ahead to 7 p.m. ET and PT.

CBC claims that Instant replay made its debut on a 1955 HNIC broadcast. CBC director George Retzlaff made a kinescope recording of a goal, and replayed it to the television audience seconds later.

Olympic women's ice hockey champion Cassie Campbell joined Hockey Night in Canada as a rinkside reporter, becoming (on October 14, 2006) the first woman to do colour commentary on a Hockey Night in Canada broadcast.[7] She filled in when Harry Neale was snowed in at his home in Buffalo.[8]

On July 23, 2010, Trevor Pilling was named the executive producer of Hockey Night in Canada, replacing Sherali Najak.[9]

In September 2012, Steve Sloan and Joel Darling were named co-executive producers of Hockey Night in Canada. Trevor Pilling was promoted to the head of CBC Sports programming.

Present day[edit]

CBC's current deal with the NHL began runs through the 2013-2014 season, a deal that will be replaced in 2014-15 by a sublicencing deal with Rogers Communications (see below). The deal includes airings of games on the conventional over-the-air CBC Television network as well as carriage of those broadcasts through digital media, including The deal came after controversy and discussion before and during the 2006-07 NHL season, when private broadcaster CTVglobemedia attempted to acquire exclusive Canadian distribution rights to the NHL for its own networks, including broadcast network CTV and cable channels TSN and RDS.[10] Such a package, which would have left CBC without NHL hockey, would have increase TSN's previously existing coverage of NHL games; the attempt also came at a time when CTVglobemedia had outbid the CBC for Canadian television rights to the 2010 and 2012 Olympics (along with Rogers Media), as well as the major television package for curling. Despite the rumours, it always seemed that CTV was unlikely to be interested in the nightly playoff coverage currently provided by the CBC, since weeknight games in April and May would conflict with new episodes of CTV's slate of American programming. As well, the title Hockey Night in Canada could not be used as the name is owned by CBC, unless CTVglobemedia paid royalties to CBC for use of the name. The current deal with CBC and TSN maintains the 50-plus-year tradition of Hockey Night in Canada on CBC, but also allows TSN to expand its coverage. A caveat of the deal limits CBC to the number of games per Canadian team it can show so that the seven Canadian-based teams, particularly the Toronto Maple Leafs, can distribute more games to regional carriers, thereby increasing the value of their local packages.

In addition to television coverage, CBC produces a daily programme, Hockey Night in Canada Radio, that premiered October 1, 2007 on Sirius Satellite Radio channel 122 (aka Sports Play-by-Play 1). While the broadcaster trumpeted HNIC Radio's launch as the return "back to the radio airwaves" for HNIC,[11] the programme does not feature actual game coverage (nor is it on the actual "airwaves" of broadcast radio). Sirius' HNIC Radio is separate entity on which only a few of CBC's HNIC commentators regularly appear. After the merger between Sirius Satellite Radio and XM Satellite Radio was completed, the show moved to NHL Network Radio, which is found on Sirius channel 207 and XM channel 211.

2014: Rogers takeover[edit]

"We close tonight with what I said back in '87, [my] first time around at the helm of this broadcast, 'Here's to an endless summer, and here's to an early fall...' [We] bid you a good Hockey Night, for now."

Ron MacLean, closing the last CBC-produced Hockey Night in Canada broadcast (June 13, 2014)[12]

On November 26, 2013, the NHL announced a 12-year deal with Rogers Communications for exclusive television and digital rights to all national NHL broadcasts beginning in the 2014-15 season; the deal was valued at $5.2 billion, twice as much as what NBC paid for its own long-term contract with the league in 2011. As part of the deal, CBC will sub-license a package of games from Rogers, allowing the network to continue airing the iconic Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday nights for at least the first 4 seasons of the agreement (2014-15 thru 2017-18), with a review of the sub-licensing deal likely after that time.[13] Rogers will bear all production responsibilities on Hockey Night and maintain all creative and editorial control of the broadcasts (though CBC will retain the right to consult Rogers on those decisions).[14] The last CBC-produced Hockey Night broadcast aired on June 13, 2014, when the Los Angeles Kings clinched the Stanley Cup in a 4-games-to-1 Final series over the New York Rangers; the broadcast closed with a season-ending montage, set to Queen's "The Show Must Go On," that included highlights from the season and playoffs interspersed with images and sounds from CBC's six decades of NHL coverage.[12]

CBC's sub-licensing deal with Rogers means it will not pay any rights fees to Rogers or the NHL; however, it will not reap any monetary reward, as Rogers will sell all advertising and receive all revenue from the telecasts.[15] Hockey Night in Canada had been a financial boon for CBC Television, which by one estimate received half of its total advertising revenue from the broadcasts.[16] The loss of NHL rights came as other reductions in funding and revenue had been occurring at CBC, which in turn led the Crown-owned public broadcaster to make budgetary, staffing, and programming cuts in its overall services; it also led to a decision by CBC in April 2014 to no longer directly compete for NHL or other pro sports broadcast rights.[17] CBC President Hubert T. Lacroix, in an internal memo to staff notifying them of the Rogers deal, noted that though the arrangement with Rogers "may not be the ideal scenario" for the CBC, he felt the network would have suffered a major blow in prestige had it been shut out from NHL broadcasts entirely. Lacroix believed the deal "is the right outcome for Canadian hockey fans," as it allows Hockey Night in Canada to remain on CBC and be made available to a wider audience and at a low cost to the broadcaster.[14]

The new deal will see the end of CBC's exclusive hold on Saturday night broadcasts as well as its practice of splitting simultaneously-played games by region. Instead, CBC will be joined by Rogers' over-the-air City network, the Sportsnet family of specialty channels, and FX Canada, who will air other games nationally alongside CBC and share the Hockey Night in Canada branding. Decisions on network assignments for the games will be made on a week-by-week basis, and will ensure that viewers have on-air access to every Hockey Night game as they are being played.[18][19] It is very likely that games will be seen on CBC in those cities who hometown teams are playing, with City, Sportsnet, etc. carrying those games in other markets. Rogers will provide afternoon pre-game and late-night post-game coverage, and will retain exclusive rights to the NHL All-Star Game.[2] CBC, who will be given advertising time across Rogers' networks for its own programming during the Hockey Night broadcasts, will continue to feature coverage of the NHL Playoffs and will retain coverage of the New Year's Day NHL Winter Classic and the Stanley Cup Final, though it may be possible for coverage of the latter to be simulcast on a Rogers network if needed.[18]

Rogers' Hockey Night will be guided by Scott Moore, who was named to the position of president of Sportsnet and its NHL coverage in January 2014; Moore has been with Rogers Media since 2010, and previously served as president of CBC Sports.[20] After announcing its deal, Rogers set forth on reviewing on-air content and production of games and ancillary content, including the retaining and sharing of announcers and other personnel; Rogers and the NHL also sought input from "fan advisor" panels and "listening tours" across the country.[21] The first major reveal of Hockey Night's new look came on March 10, 2014, when CBC personality George Stroumboulopoulos was tapped to become studio host of Hockey Night and City's Sunday night Hometown Hockey package, working alongside Sportsnet's Daren Millard and Jeff Marek. The hire of "Strombo," who is an alum of Toronto sports radio station CJCL and had been hosting his own CBC talk show (which ended its 10-year run in 2014), has been seen as an effort by Rogers to expand Hockey Night's appeal toward a younger demographic.[22]

Though Ron MacLean will cede primary host duties for Hockey Night to Stroumboulopoulos (his last broadcast in that role was the last game of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final, as referenced in the above quote), he will remain alongside Don Cherry on the Coach's Corner segments as well as contribute to Hometown Hockey and the annual Hockey Day in Canada.[23][24][25] Cherry, who has been termed as "iconic" by Rogers resident Keith Pelley, remains under contract with CBC through 2018.[26] Besides MacLean and Cherry, several other CBC Hockey Night veterans will continue in roles with Rogers' HNIC and/or other NHL on Sportsnet national broadcasts, including game announcers Jim Hughson and Bob Cole; reporters Elliotte Friedman, Scott Oake, and Cassie Campbell-Pascall; and analysts Glenn Healy, Kelly Hrudey, Craig Simpson, Gary Galley, and P. J. Stock. New hires include game announcers Dave Randorf and Paul Romanuk.[27][28][29]

Content and features on Hockey Night will be spread out and featured on CBC, City, and Sportsnet,[2][16] including Coach's Corner, which will remain for at least two years according to TSN personality Bob McKenzie.[30] The studio features will originate from Studio 41 of the Canadian Broadcasting Centre, which Rogers will rent out for Hockey Night, Hometown Hockey, and its weeknight NHL coverage. (Studio 41 is right next door to Studio 42, Hockey Night's home until 2014.)[31]

Coverage overview[edit]

Regular season[edit]

Pregame show[edit]

Hockey Night in Canada coverage typically begins at 6:30 P.M. Eastern time, a little more than 30 minutes prior to the opening faceoff of the first game with the pregame show called Scotiabank Hockey Tonight. Ron MacLean hosts the program along with Kelly Hrudey and Mike Milbury, if he is not on assignment for the NHL on NBC. P.J. Stock usually goes over news and highlights from earlier games in the NHL. Elliotte Friedman features a segment called Inside Hockey that examines a range of issues in the NHL. It was previously known as Labatt Saturday Night (later just called Saturday Night, after Labatt dropped its title sponsorship), and was best known for the theme song "The Place'll Be Rockin' 'Cause It's Saturday Night" performed by The Carpet Frogs member Michael Zweig.[32] This song was replaced by Kid Rock and Nickelback's version of "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting" (which was previously used to introduce the night's first game). In the 2011-2012 season, the pregame theme song was reverted to "The Place'll Be Rockin'" in a newer-yet-different recording. Currently, "The Place'll Be Rockin'" is used as an intro to Hockey Tonight, while "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting" is used as an outro to the pre-game show.

Game 1[edit]

The first game of the Saturday night doubleheader typically originates in Eastern Canada, beginning at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT. Most CBC stations will air the night's featured game (often involving the Toronto Maple Leafs), but games are also split regionally for other markets; such as Ottawa Senators games for the Ottawa Valley, the Montreal Canadiens for Quebec, the Winnipeg Jets for Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and the Detroit Red Wings for nearby Windsor if they are facing a Canadian team. Play-by-play for the feature game and seen by the majority of the country is provided by Jim Hughson, with Craig Simpson serving as colour commentator. Glenn Healy is often situated between the benches and Elliotte Friedman is usually the rinkside reporter. On December 13, 2008, the Maple Leafs received their first Saturday off (apart from Christmas Eve and Christmas Day) in nearly 13 years. Other broadcast teams include Bob Cole and Garry Galley (who usually broadcast the Montreal Canadiens game) and Dean Brown and Greg Millen (who usually broadcast the Ottawa Senators game).

The Hockey Night in Canada logo, used until 1998 on CBC, and 2004 on Radio-Canada. In recent years, this logo has reappeared as a secondary logo on the program, and is used in various merchandising by CBC.

At the end of the first period, MacLean hosts Coach's Corner, featuring himself and former NHL Coach of the Year Don Cherry. On Coach's Corner, Cherry analyzes the game's first period, shares his opinions on current issues surrounding the sport or league, and gives tips on various points of hockey, with MacLean acting as Cherry's foil. There are times in which Cherry tends to be controversial; for example, in 2003, Cherry stated that the majority of players wearing facial protection in the NHL are French-Canadians and Europeans (though a study done by a lawyer confirmed Cherry's assertion). In any case, this controversy led to Coach's Corner being put on a seven-second delay for the rest of the season by the CBC. The seven-second delay has been subsequently removed from the broadcast, although the segment is still only shown live during the telecast of the first game that enters the first intermission. The theme music played in the opening is "Flame Of Victory", from the Network Music production library.

This segment is followed by a second feature that changes from season-to-season, currently being called Up to the Minute, showing scores of other games. There are also interviews with players in between periods, during which the players often brandish towels with the HNIC logo on it.

During the second intermission, MacLean previously hosted Hotstove Tonight, a segment that features the HNIC hockey analysts, who debate and speculate on issues facing hockey. The cast includes Glenn Healy, Elliotte Friedman, PJ Stock, and Kevin Weekes. Past contributors have included Al Strachan, Pierre LeBrun, Eric Duhatschek, Scott Morrison, Mike Milbury and John Davidson. During non-Saturday playoff games, After 40 Minutes, which normally features MacLean interviewing league or team officials (along with scores and highlights of other games) airs instead. In the 2013-14 season, Hotstove Tonight was moved to Hockey Tonight, and replaced by After Forty.

Following the "three stars" selection of the first game(s), and before the faceoff of Game 2, MacLean and the rest of the 2nd intermission crew talk about the early games and show scores and highlights of other games before breaking away to Scott Oake for the lead into the late game.

Game 2[edit]

The second game airs at 10 p.m. ET (7 p.m. PT, 8 p.m MT) originating from a Mountain or Pacific Time Zone city and usually featuring one of the three teams from Western Canada (the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Vancouver Canucks, or occasionally Winnipeg Jets). Since hurry-up faceoffs were introduced, it is extremely rare that a regular season game runs longer than three hours, and every double-header game is seen in its entirety. The broadcast team usually consists of Mark Lee and Kelly Hrudey, though sometimes Hughson and Simpson call the late game if it is deemed to be the marquee game of the night. Scott Oake is the ice-level reporter.

Beginning in the 2013 NHL season, the first intermission of the second game features a short analysis segment with Ron MacLean and Don Cherry, followed by the segments Inside the Game, and Scoreboard Saturday—which features highlights from earlier games.[33]

The first game will sometimes originate from a U.S. city, if the local NHL team there is playing host to a Canadian club. The second game will often originate from Los Angeles, San Jose, California, Phoenix, Denver, or Anaheim, California if the local team is playing host to a Canadian team. This is more common with the second, Western game, because between the Toronto Maple Leafs, Winnipeg Jets, Ottawa Senators, and Montreal Canadiens (Canada's four Eastern teams), at least one is traditionally at home on any given Saturday night.

Only on rare occasions has HNIC broadcast regular-season games involving two U.S.-based teams, and this has usually been due to extremely special occasions. These have included Wayne Gretzky's final game in 1999 (which actually took place on a Sunday afternoon), the retirement of Steve Yzerman's jersey in 2007, Sidney Crosby's comeback game in Pittsburgh against the New York Islanders in 2011, and the league's major outdoor games (such as the Winter Classic, though the 2014 edition did feature a Canadian team, and the Stadium Series).

After Hours[edit]

Beginning with the 2000–01 season, CBC launched After Hours, a program that follows the Saturday night HNIC broadcast. It recaps the night's NHL coverage from the city of the late game. From 2000-2008, the hosts were Scott Oake and Kelly Hrudey, Scott Oake and Marc Crawford (2008–2009). The new hosts of After Hours are Scott Oake and Kevin Weekes (2009–present). The wrap-up usually includes a guest appearance by an NHL player or coach. Fans are typically allowed to submit questions online or by phone.

Hockey Night in Canada Replay[edit]

Following After Hours, CBC shows Hockey Night in Canada Replay, which recaps the highlights of the games. In British Columbia, this show airs later in the evening, after the 10:30 p.m. local newscast CBC News: Vancouver Saturday.

Past features[edit]

  • Peter Puck, a series of three-minute animated shorts produced by Hanna-Barbera, were regular between-periods features on HNIC (and on NBC's NHL telecasts in the U.S.) in the 1970s.


CBC also provides extensive Stanley Cup playoff coverage every spring with a focus on Canadian teams. They also have exclusive English-language rights to the Stanley Cup Finals. Many of the playoff games, regardless of the day of the week, are aired, giving the CBC an unusual program schedule from early April through early June. This means CBC generally ends its regularly scheduled broadcast season earlier than other Canadian and American broadcasters. For years, all playoff games involving Canadian teams were aired by the CBC, though not always on a national basis. However, under the terms of a new broadcast deal that began during the 2008–09 season, TSN has the third, fifth, seventh, and eighth selections among opening round series, while CBC would choose first, second, fourth,and sixth. As a result of the new arrangement, if more than two Canadian teams qualify for the playoffs, it is likely that at least one series involving a Canadian team will be broadcast by TSN. CBC tends to select series involving at least one Canadian team and series involving Detroit (strong fanbase in Canada, particularly concentrated in Southwestern Ontario), Pittsburgh (Sidney Crosby), Boston (strong fanbase in Atlantic Canada, division foe to Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa), or Buffalo (strong fanbase in the Golden Horseshoe region of Ontario, division foe to Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa). In subsequent rounds, TSN could again show a Canadian team if at least three of them get that far.

The selection also takes into account where games will be played and in what time zone, so sometimes they will alternate games due to scheduling conflicts. If on one day TSN has 3 series playing while CBC only has one, CBC will likely pick up a game from one of the TSN series and broadcast that game.

During the first intermission of Hockey Night in Canada playoff broadcasts, the feature alternates between Don Cherry's Coach's Corner and Kelly Hrudey's Behind the Mask. Hrudey, a former NHL goaltender, joined the CBC for the 1998–99 season. As a former player, Hrudey provides unique perspectives on today's NHL and gives the viewer an inside look at the game from another angle. Cherry provides features during Toronto Maple Leaf games or other Canadian teams still in the playoffs. On some occasions, three announcers are provided for the game instead of the usual two for the regular season, especially during the Stanley Cup Finals.

After the Stanley Cup finals, interviews with the players and coaches of the winning team are shown, in which each person says where they are from, and who their favourite player growing up was.

Hockey Day in Canada[edit]

Since 2000, the CBC has aired an annual special Hockey Day in Canada broadcast to celebrate the game in Canada. The broadcast includes hockey-related features all afternoon, leading up to a tripleheader of NHL action featuring the seven Canadian teams (Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, Winnipeg Jets). One exception was the 2008 edition that featured four games including two American teams (Detroit and Colorado) along with the six Canadian teams; this was due to the NHL's schedule format at the time, as there was no inter-conference games between Canadian teams. Lead commentators, Don Cherry and Ron MacLean broadcast from a remote area. The broadcast includes live broadcast segments from smaller communities right across the country and features panel discussions on issues facing "Canada's game" at both the minor and pro levels. The day is usually in mid-February, but was broadcast in early January in 2002 and 2006 due to the 2002 Winter Olympics and 2006 Winter Olympics, respectively; the 2007 event was also held in January (January 13), though no sporting events key to Canada were scheduled. The 2010 events were held on January 30 because of the 2010 Winter Olympics, held in February. The 2014 event was held on January 18 due to the 2014 Winter Olympics, which were held from February 8 to February 24.

Hockey Day in Canada has also featured special events, such as world-record all-night pick-up hockey games from Red Deer, Alberta (in 2001) and Windsor, Nova Scotia (2002). Viewers got to see the games after the CBC ended regular programming for the night, without commentary.

Hockey Day in Canada was held in Whitehorse, Yukon on February 12, 2011. The Edmonton Oilers hosted the Ottawa Senators, the Toronto Maple Leafs visited the Montreal Canadiens and the Vancouver Canucks welcomed the Calgary Flames.[34]

With the arrival of the new Winnipeg Jets for the 2011-12 NHL season, there was an odd number of Canadian teams in the NHL, meaning HDIC again required the presence of an American team. This season, the Jets played the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Broadcast locations[edit]

In January 2005, due to the NHL labour dispute, the CBC cancelled that year's broadcast. Rival TSN aired a similar broadcast instead, Hockey Lives Here: Canada's Game, based from the World Pond Hockey Championships in Plaster Rock, New Brunswick. It also featured NHL players competing in an exhibition game to raise money for various charities in Hamilton, Ontario. TSN did not revive its version after the lockout ended.

Team Records on Hockey Day
Team W L T OL
Calgary Flames 6 5 1 2
Edmonton Oilers 3 8 0 3
Montreal Canadiens 7 6 0 1
Ottawa Senators 6 7 0 1
Toronto Maple Leafs 8 5 0 1
Vancouver Canucks 9 2 1 2
Winnipeg Jets 2 1 0 0
Colorado Avalanche 1 0 0 0
Detroit Red Wings 1 0 0 1
New York Rangers 1 0 0 0
Pittsburgh Penguins 1 0 0 0

Lockout programming[edit]

During the 2004–05 NHL lockout, CBC replaced Hockey Night in Canada with a triple-feature of movies, mostly of the Hollywood variety. (The pregame was replaced with repeats of The Red Green Show.) However, as a reminder to viewers that Saturday night was supposed to be Hockey Night, Ron MacLean hosted the movies from various hockey venues throughout Canada, under the title Movie Night in Canada. Ron would mention some facts about the film and talk hockey during the commercial breaks. The venues were usually those of CHL teams.

A labour deal was reached in time to contest the 2005–06 NHL season. CBC's own on-air talent was also locked out during the summer of 2005, nearly missing the start of the hockey season. Some journalists have suggested that this helped cause TSN and the CFL to end their sublicense deal with CBC after the 2007 season, as games from that league aired without commentary during the lockout.

During the 1994-95 and 2012-13 lockouts, the CBC ran classic Hockey Night in Canada games in its place. During the latter of the two lockouts, the games were selected by viewer polls at HNIC's website.

Availability outside of Canada[edit]

As mentioned previously, during the era that HNIC was on radio, it was broadcast over several powerful CBC clear-channel stations whose nighttime signals reached much of the northern United States. As a result, the games had a following throughout the northern U.S., and especially so in Boston, Chicago, Detroit, and New York, the four U.S. cities that had NHL teams at the time. Foster Hewitt always acknowledged these listeners in his opening greeting, "Hello Canada, and hockey fans in the United States and Newfoundland" (before Newfoundland joined Canada in 1949; the line is immortalized in the opening montage of today's Hockey Night telecasts). This continued into the television era (despite waning in recent years with the expansion of local team TV coverage on regional sports networks), although some C-band satellite dishes can still receive the CBC's over-the-air feeds. U.S. cable television outlets near the international border (including markets such as Metro Detroit (which includes Windsor, Ontario); Seattle, Washington; Buffalo, New York; Burlington, Vermont and Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan) typically carry a nearby CBC affiliate on their systems (though some cable systems carry a non-regional station). As a general rule, CBC stations are carried within about 150 miles of the border, and are not blacked out of sporting events.

Beginning with the 2008–09 season, Hockey Nights main games were simulcast weekly in the United States on NHL Network, complete with pre- and post-game shows. If U.S.-based teams appear in these games, the telecast is blacked out in the markets of the participating teams or is televised instead by the U.S. team's local broadcaster. For example, if the Toronto Maple Leafs host the Boston Bruins in "Hockey Night"'s main game, the NHL Network's telecast is blacked-out in the Boston area and the game is instead televised by the Boston-based New England Sports Network (NESN). In the 2009-10 season, only the first game of the HNIC doubleheader is simulcast live on NHL Network, with the second game and post-game After Hours program being shown in tape delay on Sunday, the sole exception being the Hockey Day in Canada event.

NHL Center Ice offers some Hockey Night in Canada games at the same time as the CBC broadcast. Usually these games are the regional Hockey Night games from either Ottawa or Montreal. Center Ice usually only shows the 7 p.m. ET games because the late games are usually national.

Beginning with the 2006 playoffs, the NBC networks (originally OLN and Versus) simulcast the CBC's coverage of some games, generally first and second round match-ups from Western Canada, instead of using their own crews and announcers. In the early 1990s, SportsChannel America covered the Stanley Cup playoffs in a similar fashion. Versus, and its current incarnation as NBCSN, continues to use CBC and TSN feeds to augment its own playoff coverage, sometimes even picking up a Canadian broadcast of a game involving two American teams.

Hockey Night in Canada is also broadcast live (and occasionally as-live) in the UK and Ireland on ESPN and ESPN America. When the broadcast is shown on the main ESPN channel it is also available in high definition on ESPN HD. The pre- and post-game segments are not included, but the entirety of the two games are shown, as well as the segments between periods.

Hockey Night in Canada is also seen in some other European markets on ESPN America, distributed on multiple cable and satellite platforms.

Hockey Night in Canada is available on Cayman 27 in the Cayman Islands as part of their regular Saturday night programming, and to Canadian Forces members on Canadian Forces Radio and Television.[36]


The legendary Foster Hewitt, who had developed a style that welcomed Canadians to the radio broadcast each week, proved that his radio style could also work in the new medium of television in 1952. His move from radio to television was successful and Hewitt continued to work in television for many years, including the famed 1972 "Summit Series" between a team representing Canada (an NHL all-star team) and the Soviet National Team. This style of play-by-play announcers in hockey broadcasting really hasn't changed between radio and TV, as broadcasters still describe the action as if viewers cannot see what is on the screen they're watching. Hewitt was followed (in no particular order) by Danny Gallivan, Dan Kelly, Dick Irvin, Jr., Jim Robson, Bob Cole, Hewitt's son, Bill Hewitt, and Jim Hughson. Previous show hosts included Wes McKnight, Ward Cornell, Jack Dennett, Ted Darling, and Dave Hodge. Ron MacLean is the current host and Jim Hughson is the primary play-by-play announcer.

Theme music[edit]


The television show's original theme song was "Saturday's Game", a march composed by Howard Cable.[37] The CBC and the advertising agency responsible for the broadcasts at the time, MacLaren Advertising, later replaced the tune with the "Esso Happy Motoring Song".[38][39]

1968-2008: The Hockey Theme[edit]

The companies later commissioned the composition of yet another theme, "The Hockey Theme", composed in 1968 by Dolores Claman and orchestrated by Jerry Toth.[40] The CBC's most recent licence to use "The Hockey Theme" expired at the conclusion of the 2007–08 NHL season. Claman's publisher issued a statement on June 4, 2008, claiming the CBC had informed them it would not be renewing its rights to the composition.[41] CBC Sports head Scott Moore denied the reports, saying that the CBC wanted to keep the song and that negotiations on a new licence agreement for the song were still ongoing.[42]

2008: CBC loses rights to The Hockey Theme[edit]

In the early evening of June 6, 2008, the CBC announced it could not reach an acceptable agreement to renew its licence, to the outrage of some viewers across the country. Perpetual rights to "The Hockey Theme" were subsequently picked up by CTV, which began using it for hockey broadcasts on its TSN and RDS sports channels beginning in the 2008–09 season.[43] (The theme would also later be featured during the closing ceremonies of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, aired on CTV.) The CBC said it had offered nearly $1 million for perpetual rights to Claman's theme,[44] but that Copyright Music was asking for $2.5 to $3 million for those rights. Copyright Music turned it down because it was, "...a settlement that barely covered our legal bills, let alone losses."[45] One proposed payment method would have allowed CBC to continue using the theme at a cost of $500 per play, for a total cost of $65,000 annually, while not actually giving CBC ownership of the music.[46] Despite being contacted by five parties interested in buying Claman's theme, "[Copyright Music] had no desire to start a bidding war"[47]

Moore has been quoted as saying, "We have no real idea why the deal fell apart. We're not sure why because the other side hasn't communicated with us."[48] Yet, Copyright Music states that Moore gave them an unrealistic deadline of 24 hours to meet him when his client was 5 timezones away.[49]

Moore has also been quoted as saying that he didn't think the Hockey Night in Canada show would lose viewers if he lost the theme song. "Hockey's a game, not a song," he said.[50] Mike Myers disagrees with this ambivalence towards the song calling it, "...the second anthem [of Canada]"[50] Canadian jazz fusion band The Shuffle Demons even jokingly introduced the song as "...[Canada's] national anthem" during performances.[51] In an informal poll on CBC's website which puts forth the question, "Can Canada go on as we know it without the Hockey Night in Canada theme?", (3361) 84% respond no.[52]

Finding a new theme: Canada's Hockey Anthem Challenge[edit]

After the loss of the well-known "The Hockey Theme" to CTV, CBC proceeded with a nationwide contest powered by the Filemobile Media Factory platform[53] for a new theme in collaboration with music label Nettwerk.[54] The contest began June 10, 2008, and at the end of the submissions period on August 31, the network had received over 14,000 entries. These entries were reduced to five semi-finalists, whose themes were re-arranged by producer Bob Rock and presented for public voting:

  1. "Ice Warriors", Gerry Mosby
  2. "Sticks to the Ice", Robert Fraser Burke
  3. "Eleventh Hour", Graham McRae
  4. "Let the Game Begin", Christian St-Roch and Jimmy Tanaka
  5. "Canadian Gold", Colin Oberst

There was some controversy when Hockey Scores, one of the highest-rated submissions, was not chosen as a semi-finalist.[citation needed]

Voting commenced on October 4, 2008, with 2 finalists being picked for a final 1-day vote.

October 11, 2008-present: Canadian Gold[edit]

The two finalists—Burke's "Sticks to the Ice" and Oberst's "Canadian Gold"—were revealed on October 9, 2008. On October 11, 2008, after a final round of voting, "Canadian Gold" was announced live by Don Cherry on Scotiabank Hockey Tonight as the new HNIC theme. Oberst received $100,000, plus 50% of the theme's royalties, the other half of which will be donated to minor hockey. CBC received exclusive rights on the theme for 3 years, and renewed the rights for the 2011-2012 season.


Hockey Night in Canada has received 4 Gemini Awards out of 6 nominations most notably for Ron MacLean.[55]

  • 1992: Best Sports Broadcaster: Ron MacLean
  • 1994: Best Sports Broadcaster: Ron MacLean
  • 2004: Best Host or Interviewer in a Sports Program or Sportscast: Ron MacLean
Best Sports Program or Series: Joel Darling, Chris Irwin, Sherali Najak
  • 2006: Best Host or Interviewer in a Sports Program or Sportscast: Ron MacLean


Programming choices[edit]

Critics of what the show chooses to program allege that the Eastern broadcast in particular favours the Toronto Maple Leafs.[56] Some feel that Toronto games are aired too often across the network, usually to the detriment of the Ottawa Senators, Montreal Canadiens, and Winnipeg Jets, whose fans sometimes do not see a Saturday night game of their teams, even when those teams are playing at home (CBC has English-language exclusivity on Saturday nights, although all Canadiens games air in French on RDS without restriction). The situation is similar to that faced by fans in the United States, as NBC has also been known to prefer airing nationally games involving teams from larger media markets such as New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington D.C., Detroit, and Chicago, regardless of season performance.

Beginning in 2008, CBC is limited in the number of times it can show each team during the regular-season, so there are likely to be fewer complaints. Additionally, CBC sometimes splits its feed to make Canadiens or Senators games available in those teams' regional markets. Windsor viewers on CBET will sometimes receive Detroit Red Wings games, provided they are playing against a Canadian team.

Another incident was when CBC refused to air the sweater retirement ceremony for Canadiens legend and credited slapshot inventor Bernard "Boom Boom" Geoffrion in English, despite months of notice.[57] Instead, CBC decided to air a ceremony honoring Maple Leafs veteran Tie Domi. This was made all the more infuriating[citation needed] considering that coincidentally Geoffrion died the very same day his number was retired.

In the early years of HDTV coverage, CBC took criticism from Western-based hockey fans for not broadcasting the second game of the doubleheader in high-definition. As such, usually only the 7 p.m. ET game involving the Toronto Maple Leafs was shown in HDTV during the 2005–06 season, and sometimes CBC would not show either game in HDTV. Starting with the 2006 playoffs, CBC now televises at least two games in HDTV per week as it has acquired a second HD-capable production truck.

Also, viewers wishing to watch the second game of the double-header once complained that they were sometimes forced to view the first game's feed until its conclusion, as CBC would rarely split its feed for Western viewers. This is rarely a concern anymore as regular-season games almost never go past 10:08 p.m. ET (7:08 p.m. PT), even including possible overtime and shootouts, because of the introduction of hurry-up faceoffs. During the playoffs, CBC announces how Western viewers can see the start of their games should early games run deep into overtime, whether this is by splitting the feed or going to the CBC website (all games are streamed online for Canadian-based IP addresses).


Criticism of the show's content often focuses around Don Cherry, who has made several controversial statements during his live on-air segments.[58] He has been accused of xenophobia towards European-born players, problematic because the broadcasts air live in Europe, and French Canadians, and is often seen as an advocate of the old-school rough style of hockey frowned upon both by some hockey fans (including NHL administrators) and many of their TV partners.[59] Despite these controversies, Cherry's popularity among English Canadians endures.[60] The Canadian punk rock group Propagandhi has written a song, "Dear Coach's Corner", that criticizes Cherry and the overt nationalism on display at NHL hockey games.

For more details on this topic, see Don Cherry § Political views and controversy.

Minority language coverage[edit]

In addition to its English-language broadcasts, Hockey Night in Canada has also broadcast games in other minority languages. In 2007, the cable channel Telelatino (TLN) simulcast a game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Vancouver Canucks in Italian, with special features and commentary by Alf De Blasis, who hosts soccer games for TLN.[61] As part of Hockey Day in Canada, CBC also televised a game in the Inuit language Inuktitut.[62]

The following two years, matches were presented in Punjabi, Tagalog, Mandarin Chinese and Cantonese. CBC subsequently added a regular schedule of games broadcast in Punjabi via the network's website and some cable/satellite providers. Citing financial issues, CBC suspended its Punjabi broadcasts just prior to the beginning of 2010 season,[63] but coverage was subsequently restored for the 2013 season.[62]


Main article: La Soirée du hockey

In parallel with CBC, its French language sister network Télévision de Radio-Canada aired La Soirée du hockey, featuring Montreal Canadiens games on Saturday evenings. In the past, the network also aired Quebec Nordiques and Ottawa Senators games occasionally during the regular season if the Canadiens were not playing that night, as well as the Stanley Cup Finals regardless of participating teams.

Beginning with the 2002–03 season, RDS secured exclusive French language rights to the NHL. The deal, negotiated with the Canadiens and not with the league itself, was meant to ensure a consistent home for all Canadiens games. Radio-Canada did not bid for these rights, saying that, as a general-interest network, it could not give up so much airtime to hockey. The announcement drew the ire of, among others, then-Heritage-Minister Sheila Copps, who suggested that the network would somehow be violating its conditions of licence by not airing LSDH. In reality there is no specific regulatory requirement that the CBC's networks carry the NHL, nor that the two networks have the same level of NHL coverage.

During the years that SRC carried La Soiree du Hockey, play-by-play men included René Lecavalier (as beloved in French-speaking Canada as Foster Hewitt was in English-speaking Canada), Richard Garneau, and Claude Quenneville.

Radio-Canada soon reached an agreement to produce the Saturday night games, to remain branded La Soirée du Hockey, to be simulcast on both SRC and RDS. However, for reasons that are unclear, that agreement was terminated after the 2004 playoffs.[64] Nonetheless, the RDS-produced replacement, Le Hockey du samedi soir, was simulcast on Radio-Canada outside Quebec, where RDS has limited distribution, through the end of the 2005–2006 season. Radio-Canada no longer simulcasts RDS broadcasts as of 2006–2007.


Mellanby, Ralph (2007). Walking with Legends. Fenn Publishing. ISBN 978-1-55168-305-8. 

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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]