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 and 10 p.m. (ET). The broadcast features various segments during the intermissions and between games (such as Coach's Corner with Ron MacLean and Don Cherry, as well as pre- and post-game coverage of the night's games, and player interviews. It also shows the hosts opinions on any controversy occurring in the league.
The Hockey Night in Canada brand is owned by the CBC 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 is being licensed to Rogers Communications for Sportsnet-produced Saturday NHL broadcasts airing on CBC Television as well as the Rogers-owned Citytv and Sportsnet networks. Rogers had secured exclusive national multimedia rights to NHL games beginning in 2014–15, and sublicensed Saturday night and playoff games to CBC. This sub-license agreement runs through the end of the Rogers deal with the NHL.
- 1 History
- 2 Coverage overview
- 3 Availability outside Canada
- 4 Announcers
- 5 Theme music
- 6 Awards
- 7 Criticism
- 8 References
- 9 Further reading
- 10 External links
Hockey Night in Canada has its origins in play-by-play hockey broadcasts, from Toronto's Arena Gardens, which began on February 8, 1929 on Toronto station CFCA with Norman Albert announcing only the third period of play in order not to discourage ticket sales. Foster Hewitt took over announcing duties within a month and, after several years, the program went national as the General Motors Hockey Broadcast, which transmitted Saturday night hockey games of the Toronto Maple Leafs, beginning on November 12, 1931 over the Canadian National Railway radio network of which CFCA was an affiliate. The more powerful CFRB replaced CFCA as the broadcast's Toronto flagship in 1932.
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. 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. 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. 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. Montreal broadcasts were hosted by Doug Smith and Elmer Ferguson broadcast for Montreal Maroons games in English and Rene 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) took over the broadcast from CFCA in 1932 and continued to broadcast Maple Leaf games for many years alongside CBC Radio's Toronto station CBL.
Hockey Night in Canada began airing on Saturday nights on CBC Television in 1952. From 1965 through 1975, in addition to the Saturday night game on CBC, HNIC also produced and broadcast a Wednesday night game on CTV, CBC's privately owned competitor; beginning in the 1975–76 NHL season, these midweek games would begin to be broadcast by local stations.
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 prior to the start of 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 1967 Stanley Cup playoffs, all games broadcast on HNIC were in colour, although a handful of games were broadcast in colour during the 1966–67 regular-season.
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 seasons, four more Canadian teams, the Edmonton Oilers, Quebec Nordiques, Winnipeg Jets, and Calgary Flames, joined the NHL. The Oilers and Flames were featured frequently as the two teams were contenders the 1980s; in contrast, as the Nordiques were owned by Carling-O'Keefe, a rival to the show's sponsor Molson and whose English-speaking fanbase was very small (being located in a near-exclusively Francophone area of Quebec), the Nords were rarely broadcast, and never from Quebec City during the regular-season.
CBC announced before the preliminary round of the 1976 playoffs that they will not televise any games from the preliminary round. As a result of this, the rights were sold back to the individual Canadian teams. Since Montreal earned a bye into the quarterfinals, this impacted Toronto and Vancouver's television coverage. While CHCH and CITY both televised all three games of the Toronto-Pittsburgh series (with Bill Hewitt and Brian McFarlane on the call), CHAN picked up the Vancouver-New York Islanders series. Game 1 of the Philadelphia-Toronto playoff series was televised locally to Southern Ontario by CHCH. Game 1 of the 1977 Pittsburgh-Toronto playoff series was seen regionally in Southern Ontario on CHCH-Hamilton.
Starting in the 1978 playoffs, the NHL Network began simulcasting many games with Hockey Night in Canada. In these games, Dan Kelly, who was the NHL Network's lead play-by-play announcer, was assigned to do play-by-play along with HNIC color commentators. This for example, happened in Game 7 of the quarterfinal series between the Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Islanders (April 29), where Kelly teamed up with Brian McFarlane. The entire 1978 Stanley Cup Finals between the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins and the entire 1979 Stanley Cup Finals between the Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers was simulcast as well.
On April 9, 1980, CBC carried the ACTRA awards ceremony. This caused Game 2 of the Hartford-Montreal playoff series to be televised only in French, and the Edmonton-Philadelphia and Toronto-Minnesota games to be shown only on local stations CITV in Edmonton and CHCH in Hamilton, respectively. The Vancouver-Buffalo game was televised by CBC regionally in British Columbia as usual, as the ACTRA awards show was tape-delayed into prime time on the west coast.
Aside from the 1982 Stanley Cup Finals, CBC's only other nationally televised postseason games from that year were the April 23 Boston-Quebec game (Game 6), the April 25 Quebec-Boston game (Game 7), and the May 6 Vancouver-Chicago game (Game 5). All of the other games were seen regionally
CTV had the national rights for the 1986 Calgary-St. Louis playoff series, except in the Calgary market, for which CBC and Molson retained exclusive rights to. CTV was unable to televise Games 2 and 3 of this series due to prior commitments. Meanwhile, CBC was allowed to televise Games 2 and 3 to all of Alberta and British Columbia, but not nationally.
On April 18, 1988 (during Game 1 of the Montreal-Boston playoff series) at approximately 8:08 p.m. local time, there was a power outage in the province of Quebec. While darkness enveloped Montreal and the Forum itself, the Forum's reserve generators kicked into gear. The generators were only able to illuminate the rink surface with enough power to keep the game moving. Ultimately, CBC was left with no choice but to abandon coverage following the first period. Chris Cuthbert was assigned by CBC to report and provide updates on Game 1 of Washington-New Jersey playoff series. However, when the Quebec blackout affected CBC's coverage of the Game 1 of the Boston-Montreal playoff series, CBC decided to throw to Cuthbert and the solitary camera beside him in his coverage position to work the rest of the game. The whole process was totally done off the cuff. In other words, there were no graphics, no replay capabilities, and no analyst (In Boston, WSBK-TV lost the picture but continued to carry audio of the game thanks to Fred Cusick and Derek Sanderson talking into a telephone line).
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 sport'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 1994–95 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 in 2006 as a rinkside reporter, becoming (on October 14, 2006) the first woman to do colour commentary on a Hockey Night in Canada broadcast. She filled in when Harry Neale was snowed in at his home in Buffalo. (Helen Hutchinson was the first woman to appear on HNIC telecasts in 1974, when she did between-period interviews on the Wednesday night CTV telecasts.)
On July 23, 2010, Trevor Pilling was named the executive producer of Hockey Night in Canada, replacing Sherali Najak.
Beginning 2011–12, the former Atlanta Thrashers were relocated to Winnipeg and became the new Winnipeg Jets, who played the Montreal Canadiens in the first NHL home game in Winnipeg in 15 years on October 9, 2011, in a 5-1 losing effort.
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.
CBC's deal with the NHL ran through the 2013–14 season, and was replaced in 2014–15 by a sublicensing 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 CBCSports.ca. 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. Such a package, which would have left CBC without NHL hockey, would have increased 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 were to pay royalties to CBC for use of the name. The current deal with CBC and Rogers not only maintains the 65-plus-year tradition of Hockey Night in Canada on CBC, but also allows Rogers 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 produced a daily radio program, 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, HNIC Radio was an NHL-oriented talk show that featured appearances by HNIC hosts and commentators, and did not cover games. 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. Although Rogers did not take over national radio rights to the NHL until the 2015–16 season, CBC chose to end the production of HNIC Radio for the 2014–15 season, citing high production costs between itself and Sirius XM, and conflicts with Rogers in regards to the transition.
2014: Rogers takeover
"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."
In negotiations for a new contract with CBC, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman had reportedly recognized the broadcaster's financial difficulties, and had offered CBC a smaller package which would have consisted of a national doubleheader on Saturday nights (as opposed to regional coverage of multiple games), reduced playoff coverage, and the loss of digital rights and the All-Star Game. Rights to the remaining properties not covered under the CBC's contract would have been offered to other broadcasters. However, CBC Sports' staff, including executive director Jeffrey Orridge, continued to insist that it have exclusivity for every Saturday night game involving Canadian teams. In turn, CBC was unable to reach a deal; the league had reportedly aimed for its next round of Canadian television contracts to have a value of at least $3.2 billion in total. BCE (owners of Bell Media and previous cable rightsholder TSN) made a bid for sole national rights to the NHL, and attempted to contact the CBC in regards to forming a partnership. However, CBC Sports' staff did not respond. In turn, Rogers Communications also made a bid of its own.
On November 26, 2013, the NHL announced a 12-year deal with Rogers for exclusive Canadian television and digital media rights to all 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 sublicensed a package of games from Rogers, allowing the network to continue airing Hockey Night in Canada at least the first four seasons of the agreement (2014–15 thru 2017–18). The last CBC-produced Hockey Night broadcast aired on June 13, 2014, when the Los Angeles Kings clinched the Stanley Cup in a four-games-to-one 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.
The new season marked a significant change in format for Hockey Night, as games are no longer split by region. Instead, CBC is joined by Rogers' over-the-air Citytv network, the Sportsnet family of specialty channels, and initially FX Canada, who air other games nationally alongside CBC and share the Hockey Night in Canada branding. Decisions on network assignments for the games are made on a week-by-week basis, and ensure that viewers have on-air access to every Hockey Night game as they are being played. CBC continues to feature coverage of the NHL All-Star Game, Stanley Cup playoffs and Stanley Cup Finals, though it may be possible for coverage of the latter to be simulcast on a Rogers network if needed. The NHL Winter Classic aired in 2015 on CBC, but moved exclusively to Sportsnet the following year.
CBC does not pay any rights fees to Rogers or the NHL; however, Rogers assumed responsibility for production and all advertising sales during the telecasts. CBC does not receive any advertising revenue, although promotions for CBC programming are included in telecasts simulcast on CBC, and the corporation still receives some revenue from Rogers for its use of CBC-employed production staff and personalities during the games (such as producers Joel Darling and Sherali Najak), along with its rent of offices and Studio 41 of the Canadian Broadcasting Centre for both Hockey Night and Sportsnet's overall coverage. 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. In order to assign responsibility for the content of the telecasts, compliance with regulatory guidelines, and advertising to Rogers, the HNIC broadcasts are broadcast on a part-time television network owned by Rogers' Sportsnet subsidiary, which is affiliated with CBC's English-language television stations (although in practice, CBC Television branding and continuity is still used on-air). A licence for this arrangement was approved by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission in April 2015.
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. Among the staff members laid off were the advertising sales staff who handled Hockey Night under CBC. 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, especially in the lead-up to the 2015 Pan-American Games and 2016 Summer Olympics, whose broadcast rights are owned by the CBC. CBC staff also described the agreement as a "structured exit" from NHL coverage in the event that Rogers does not extend the agreement.
Rogers' Hockey Night was initially guided by Scott Moore, who was named to the position of Rogers Media president of Sportsnet and NHL properties in January 2014; Moore had been with Rogers Media since 2010, and previously served as president of CBC Sports. 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. 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 Citytv'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.
Though Ron MacLean ceded hosting duties for Hockey Night to Stroumboulopoulos, he remained alongside Don Cherry on the Coach's Corner segment, and served as the on-location host of Sportsnet's Hometown Hockey games. Cherry, who has been termed as "iconic" by Rogers resident Keith Pelley, remained under contract with CBC. Besides MacLean and Cherry, several other CBC Hockey Night veterans continued in roles with HNIC and Rogers' NHL coverage, including game announcers Jim Hughson and Bob Cole (who retired in 2019); color commentators Craig Simpson, Glenn Healy, Garry Galley, Greg Millen, and Cassie Campbell-Pascall; reporters Kyle Bukauskas, Scott Oake, Christine Simpson, and Dan Murphy; and studio analysts Kelly Hrudey, P. J. Stock, and Elliotte Friedman. New hires include game announcers Dave Randorf, Mike Johnson, and Paul Romanuk, and Rick Ball.
Content and features on Hockey Night are generally simulcast between the games, which until 2019, included the traditional Coach's Corner segment during the first intermission.
The brokerage agreement between CBC and Rogers reduced CBC's total advertising revenue, which fell by 37% during the final three months of 2014, in comparison to 2013. Industry analysts reported that, despite the increased promotion for other CBC programming that is available through the arrangement, that CBC may experience even larger losses in advertising revenue during the Stanley Cup Playoffs due to games nearly every night over its duration.
In June 2016, Rogers announced that George Stroumboulopoulos would leave Sportsnet, and that Ron MacLean was reinstated as studio host for the early game on Hockey Night, alongside his on-location role for Hometown Hockey. David Amber served as studio host for the late game.
In 2019, Bob Cole retired in April, and Don Cherry resigned in November. On June 5, 2020, Sportsnet announced that it had hired TSN commentator and former Hockey Night in Canada broadcaster Chris Cuthbert.
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 Game 1 with the pre-game show, Hockey Central Saturday. Ron MacLean hosts Hockey Central Saturday alongside analysts Kelly Hrudey and Elliotte Friedman. The pre-game show originated in 1998 and prior to the Rogers takeover was first titled Labatt Saturday Night and then after a sponsorship change Scotiabank Hockey Tonight.
The first game of the Saturday night doubleheader typically originates in Eastern Canada, beginning at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT. CBC stations air the night's featured game, usually involving the Toronto Maple Leafs, with CBC and Sportsnet's lead commentators Jim Hughson and Craig Simpson on the call.
Prior to the 2014–15 season, additional games involving Canadian teams were split to air regionally on CBC stations in different parts of the country. For example, Winnipeg Jets games were often seen in Central Canada, and Ottawa Senators games in the Ottawa area and Eastern Canada.
As of the 2015–16 season, the second-most important game is allocated to City (typically featuring either the Jets, the Senators or the Montreal Canadiens), and the remaining game to the other Sportsnet channels. On some occasions, Sportsnet also simulcasts the featured games from CBC or City, and broadcasters of teams that are regionally contracted to Sportsnet, if needed. While second-tier games were typically shown on City in the inaugural season, these games were moved to Sportsnet (with City sometimes airing all-U.S. games or simply simulcasting CBC's game) in order to encourage pay television subscriptions.
At the end of the first period, MacLean hosted Coach's Corner, featuring himself and former NHL Coach of the Year Don Cherry. On Coach's Corner, Cherry analyzed the first period(s) of the game(s) in progress, shares his opinions on current issues surrounding the sport or league, and he gives tips on various points of hockey, with MacLean acting as Cherry's foil. The Coach's Corner segment was followed by highlights of other games going on during the evening. There are also interviews with players in between periods, during which the players often brandish towels with the HNIC logo on it.
MacLean also hosts the second intermission segment Saturday Headlines alongside Hrudey and Friedman. The segment usually focuses on the previous week's news around the NHL, along with highlights and analysis of the games in progress.
After the "three stars" selection of the first game(s), and before the face-off of Game 2, MacLean and Cherry return to give updates on scores and highlights from around the league. The commentators for Game 2 preview the upcoming contest.
The second game airs at 10 p.m. ET (7 p.m. PT, 8 p.m. MT) on CBC and Sportsnet, originating from a Mountain or Pacific Time Zone city and usually featuring at least one of the 3 teams from Western Canada (Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers or Vancouver Canucks). 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 lead broadcast team usually consists of Dave Randorf and Louie DeBrusk. On occasions where there are multiple late games, multiple channels are used similar to the first game and Sportsnet's regional announcers are also utilized. On rare occasions, Hughson and Simpson will call the late game if it is deemed to be the marquee game of the night – this occurs either when the Maple Leafs are idle or they are out of playoff contention. Scott Oake is usually the ice-level reporter while David Amber takes over for MacLean as studio host.
From the 2012–13 NHL season, the first intermission of Game 2 featured 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.
Game 2 is followed by a post-game show, titled After Hours and hosted by Oake and DeBrusk from the arena where they worked that night. The program features a wrap-up of the night's games, along with an extended interview and viewer questions with a player or coach. The show aired on CBC from 2000–01 to 2014–15, at which point it was discontinued, but After Hours was revived for 2016–17 and is now shown on Sportsnet as well as CBC.
Only on rare occasions has HNIC broadcast regular-season games involving two U.S.-based teams, and this has usually been due to exceptional circumstances. Special occasions 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 early editions of the league's major outdoor games (such as the Winter Classic). However, due to their decline in popularity, outdoor games are no longer shown on CBC or branded HNIC unless a Canadian team is involved.
- 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. While its playoff coverage and rights to the Finals will continue under the Rogers sublicensing agreement, coverage will be shared with Sportsnet.
For years, all playoff games involving Canadian teams were aired by the CBC, though not always on a national basis. From 2008 through 2014, rights to individual series were instead picked using a draft-like setup; in the first round, CBC first, second, fourth, and sixth selections among opening round series, and TSN had the third, fifth, seventh, and eighth selections. CBC tended to select series involving at least one Canadian team and series involving teams with strong Canadian fanbases (such as Boston, Buffalo, Detroit, and Pittsburgh); as a result of this arrangement, if more than two Canadian teams qualified for the playoffs, it was likely that at least one series involving a Canadian team would be broadcast by TSN.
During the first three rounds of the playoffs, the NHL usually gives higher priority to NBC's requests to schedule afternoon games on the weekends, which results in little or no post-season contests on Saturday nights. This may include holding a playoff game on Saturday afternoon even if a Canadian club is the home team (like Game 1 of the 2014 Eastern Conference Final hosted by the Montreal Canadiens).
Stanley Cup Finals coverage
CBC's coverage of Games 3, 4 and 5 of the 1954 Stanley Cup Finals were joined in progress at 9:30 p.m. (approximately one hour after start time). Meanwhile, CBC joined Game 6 in at 10 p.m. (again, one hour after start time). Game 7 was carried Dominion wide (nationwide) from the opening face-off at 9 p.m. Since Game 7 was played on Good Friday night, there were no commercials (Imperial Oil was the sponsor).
The 1961 Stanley Cup Finals were almost not televised in Canada at all. At that time, the CBC only had rights to the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs' games; home games only during the season and all games in the playoffs. However, with both the Canadiens and Maple Leafs eliminated in the semi-finals, the CBC's worst nightmare became reality. The CBC had to conceive a way to carry the Finals between the Chicago Black Hawks and Detroit Red Wings or face public revolt. According to lore, the CBC found a way to link their Windsor viewers as having a vested interest in the Finals with the across the river Red Wings. Thus, CBC was able to carry the series after inking special contracts with the Red Wings and Black Hawks as a service to the Windsor market. From Windsor, CBC linked the signal to Toronto and they relayed the coverage Dominion-wide. From there, Canadians were able to see the Finals with nary a glitch in the coverage. The CBC broadcast of the final game from Detroit (where Chicago won the championship) was fed to Chicago and simulcast there by WGN-TV.
To accommodate the American TV coverage on NBC (1966 marked the first time that a Stanley Cup Finals game was to be nationally broadcast on American network television), Game 1 of the 1966 Stanley Cup Finals was shifted to a Sunday afternoon. This in return, was the first time that a National Hockey League game was played on a Sunday afternoon in Montreal. While Games 1 and 4 of the NBC broadcasts were televised in colour, CBC carried these games and all other games in black and white.
The most commonly seen video clip of Bobby Orr's famous overtime goal ("The Flight") in Game 4 of the 1970 Stanley Cup Finals is the American version broadcast on CBS as called by Dan Kelly. This archival clip can be considered a rarity, since about 98% of the time, any surviving kinescopes or videotapes of the actual telecasts of hockey games from this era usually emanate from CBC's coverage. According to Dick Irvin, Jr.'s book My 26 Stanley Cups (Irvin was in the CBC booth with Danny Gallivan during the 1970 Stanley Cup Finals), he was always curious why even the CBC prototypically uses the CBS replay of the Bobby Orr goal (with Dan Kelly's commentary) instead of Gallivan's call. The explanation that Irvin received was that the CBC's master tape of the game (along with others) was thrown away in order to clear shelf space at the network.
In 1972, Hockey Night in Canada moved all playoff coverage from CBC to CTV (in actuality, MacLaren Advertising, Ltd., the actual rights holders of HNIC at the time, worked out arrangements with CTV to move the full NHL playoffs there) to avoid conflict with the lengthy NABET strike against the CBC.
In 1980, Bob Cole, Dan Kelly and Jim Robson shared play-by-play duties for CBC's coverage. Cole did play-by-play for the first half of Games 1, 2 and 5. Meanwhile, Kelly did play-by-play for the second half Games 1-5 (Kelly also called the overtime period of Game 1). Finally, Robson did play-by-play for first half of Games 3 and 4 and Game 6 entirely. In essence this would mean that Cole or Robson would do play-by-play for the first period and the first half of the second period. Therefore, at the closest stoppage of play near the 10 minute mark of the second period, Cole or Robson handed off the call to Kelly for the duration of the game.
In 1986, CBC only televised Games 1 and 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals in Montreal and Calgary. CBC would go on to televise Games 3, 4 and 5 nationally. When CTV televised Games 1 and 2, both games were blacked out in Montreal and Calgary. Had the series gone to a seventh game, then both CBC and CTV would have televised it while using their own production facilities and crews.
Game 4 (May 24) of the 1988 Stanley Cup Finals is well known for fog that interfered with the game and a power outage that caused its cancellation before a faceoff. The game ended with the Edmonton Oilers and Boston Bruins tied at 3–3. CBC televised the first Game 4 as well as the "official" fourth game (on May 26), for which the Oilers won 6–3.
Hockey Day in Canada
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 triple-header 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.
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.
HDIC continued under the Rogers arrangement, with Scotiabank becoming title sponsor. As Sportsnet also holds national broadcast rights to the Canadian Hockey League, the 2015 edition included a primetime QMJHL game between the hosting Halifax Mooseheads and the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles.
- 2000: Toronto, Ontario (February 19)
- 2001: Red Deer, Alberta (February 24)
- 2002: Windsor, Nova Scotia (January 5)
- 2003: Iqaluit, Nunavut (February 15)
- 2004: Shaunavon, Saskatchewan (February 21)
- 2005: No Hockey Day in Canada due to the 2004–05 NHL lockout
- 2006: Stephenville, Newfoundland and Labrador (January 7)
- 2007: Nelson, British Columbia (January 13)
- 2008: Winkler, Manitoba (February 9)
- 2009: Campbellton, New Brunswick (February 21)
- 2010: Stratford, Ontario (January 30)
- 2011: Whitehorse, Yukon (February 12)
- 2012: Prince Edward Island (February 11)
- 2013: Peterborough, Ontario (February 9)
- 2014: Lloydminster, Alberta/Saskatchewan (January 18)
- 2015: Halifax, Nova Scotia (February 14)
- 2016: Kamloops, British Columbia (February 6)
- 2017: Kenora, Ontario (February 18)
- 2018: Corner Brook, Newfoundland and Labrador (January 20)
- 2019: Swift Current, Saskatchewan (February 9)
- 2020: Yellowknife, Northwest Territories (February 8)
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.
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During the 2004–05 NHL lockout, CBC replaced Hockey Night in Canada with a block of Saturday night movies branded as Movie Night in Canada, hosted by Ron MacLean from various junior hockey venues. A labour deal was reached in time to contest and broadcast 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 sublicence 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.
Movie Night in Canada was revived in 2020, when league play was suspended by the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada.
Minority language coverage
Owing to the country's multiculturalism, Hockey Night in Canada has also produced special telecasts of games in the country's minority languages, primarily as part of Hockey Day in Canada; for HDIC 2007, the cable channel 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. For HDIC 2010, CBC also televised a game in the Inuit language Inuktitut, with commentary by CBC North personalities Charlie Panigoniak and Annie Ford. In the years following, matches were also presented in Hindi, Punjabi, Tagalog, Mandarin Chinese and Cantonese.
CBC subsequently broadcast one series per round during the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs in Mandarin, and added a regular schedule of games broadcast in Punjabi (Canada's third-most-spoken language after English and French), via the network's website and some cable/satellite providers. Citing financial issues, CBC suspended its Punjabi broadcasts just prior to the beginning of the 2010-11 season, but coverage was subsequently restored for the 2013 season via a new sponsorship deal. With the transition to Rogers, it was announced that the Punjabi broadcasts would be carried by its multicultural Omni Television stations as Hockey Night in Canada: Punjabi Edition.
Harnarayan Singh's Punjabi call of the game winning Pittsburgh Penguins goal by Nick Bonino during the first game of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final, where he rapidly exclaimed Bonino's name several times in a row, received national attention as a viral video. Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan, who showed footage of the call to the team as part of a video recap prior to Game 2, described the calls as being "entertaining". Singh was invited to Pittsburgh to join the Penguins' Stanley Cup celebrations. On November 30, 2016, Singh participated in his first English-language broadcast, serving as a reporter during a Calgary Flames/Toronto Maple Leafs game on Sportsnet.
In parallel with CBC, its French language sister network Ici Radio-Canada Télé (then known as 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.
Radio-Canada soon reached an agreement to produce the Saturday night games, to remain branded La Soirée du Hockey, to be simulcast on both Radio-Canada and RDS. That agreement was terminated after the 2004 playoffs, but the RDS-produced replacement, Le Hockey du samedi soir, continued to be 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, while Rogers sold the French-language rights to TVA Sports under its contract.
Availability outside Canada
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, which also 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. Since the Rogers takeover, however, HNIC games on NHL Network now feature games regardless of broadcaster (either CBC or a Rogers network).
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 Sportsnet 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 United Kingdom 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 was also seen in some other European markets on ESPN America, distributed on multiple cable and satellite platforms until 2013 (when ESPN America closed).
Until its closure in 2014, Canadian Forces Radio and Television rebroadcast HNIC games to Canadian Forces members stationed overseas.
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 has remained the same on television as on radio as broadcasters describe the action play by play. 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, Don Cherry, Dave Hodge, Dick Irvin, Jr., and George Stroumboulopoulos.
Ron MacLean (early games) and David Amber (late games) serve as the current hosts as of the 2019–20 season. Jim Hughson, Dave Randorf, and John Bartlett are the current play-by-play announcers. Craig Simpson, Louie DeBrusk, Garry Galley, and Greg Millen are the current color commentators.
The television show's original theme song was "Saturday's Game", a march composed by Howard Cable. 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".
1968–2008: The Hockey Theme
- See also: The Hockey Theme
The companies later commissioned the composition of yet another theme, "The Hockey Theme", composed in 1968 by Dolores Claman and orchestrated by Jerry Toth. 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. 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.
2008: CBC loses rights to The Hockey Theme
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. (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, 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." 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. Despite being contacted by five parties interested in buying Claman's theme, "[Copyright Music] had no desire to start a bidding war"
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." Yet, Copyright Music states that Moore gave them an unrealistic deadline of 24 hours to meet him when his client was 5 time zones away.
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. Mike Myers disagrees with this ambivalence towards the song calling it, "...the second anthem [of Canada]" Canadian jazz fusion band The Shuffle Demons even jokingly introduced the song as "...[Canada's] national anthem" during performances. 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.
Finding a new theme: Canada's Hockey Anthem Challenge
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 for a new theme in collaboration with music label Nettwerk. 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:
- "Ice Warriors", Gerry Mosby
- "Sticks to the Ice", Robert Fraser Burke
- "Eleventh Hour", Graham McRae
- "Let the Game Begin", Christian St-Roch and Jimmy Tanaka
- "Canadian Gold", Colin Oberst
There was some controversy when Hockey Scores, one of the highest-rated submissions, was not chosen as a semi-finalist.
Voting commenced on October 4, 2008, with 2 finalists being picked for a final 1-day vote.
October 11, 2008–present: Canadian Gold
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 three years, and renewed the rights for the 2011–2012 season.
A re-orchestrated version of the theme was introduced for the 2014–15 season. It was arranged and orchestrated by John Herberman, and recorded in Toronto with a 50-piece orchestra. Herberman also created an extensive library of new stings and bumpers derived from the main theme.
- 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
Critics of what the show chooses to program allege that Hockey Night particularly favours the Toronto Maple Leafs. On March 11, 2006, CBC did not air the pre-game sweater retirement ceremony for Canadiens legend and credited slapshot inventor Bernard "Boom Boom" Geoffrion, electing to continue on with its planned broadcast of a Toronto Maple Leafs/Tampa Bay Lightning game. The decision was worsened by the fact that Geoffrion had died earlier in the day. CBC did devote portions of its coverage to Geoffrion, including a pre-game tribute, and acknowledgements during the first intermission and Coach's Corner, while the ceremony was broadcast in full by French-language outlets. A CBC spokesperson explained that the network had only received a "handful" of complaints surrounding the lack of coverage; if CBC had aired the ceremony in full, it would have pre-empted coverage of the Leafs game for 40 minutes. A writer for the Ottawa Citizen considered the decision to be an example of this perceived bias towards the Maple Leafs by CBC, believing that they did not want to "offend" their fans by not showing their game in full.
When the 2011 NHL Winter Classic was delayed into primetime, the CBC chose to broadcast the night's original featured game between the Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators in Ontario only, with the remainder of the network airing the Winter Classic.
Criticism of the show's content often focused on Don Cherry, who had made several controversial statements during his live on-air segments. Some of his proclamations on the show have been criticized for insulting Quebecois and European players, some of whom he had regarded as "soft". He has stated that Americans are ruining the NHL. Despite these controversies, Cherry's popularity among English Canadians endured. 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.
The Rogers-produced Hockey Night, Coach's Corner was noticeably shortened, from as long as 10 minutes to 5 — a change that was criticized by both Cherry and MacLean during their first segment of the new season. The following Monday, Scott Moore had a short discussion with Cherry regarding the matter, laughing it off and explaining that "if you have more to talk about, all you need to do is make sure you tell the executive producer what you want to talk about and we'll make sure you have lots of time."
- For more details on this topic, see Don Cherry#Political views and controversy.
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|NHL English network broadcast partner
1952 – present
with CTV (1984–1986)
with Global/Canwest (1987–1988)