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This CBC photo of Hockey Night in Canada broadcasters Brian McFarlane, left, Dave Hodge, centre and Bill Hewitt was originally published on Dec. 13, 1980. (CBC)
This CBC photo of Hockey Night in Canada broadcasters Brian McFarlane, left, Dave Hodge, centre and Bill Hewitt was originally published on Dec. 13, 1980. (CBC)

Highlights of an iconic show: A short history of Hockey Night in Canada Add to ...

1952: Hockey Night in Canada is born

Just weeks after television broadcasting began in Canada, Hockey Night in Canada hit the air for the first time with a game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Boston Bruins at Maple Leaf Gardens. Airing once a week, the show was hosted by Foster Hewitt and began with the signature opening “Hello Canada and hockey fans in the United States.” During his career, Mr. Hewitt coined phrases such as “He shoots, he scores.” In 1958, his son Bill took over hosting responsibilities. Both have been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

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1955: The creation of instant replay

Hockey Night in Canada producer George Retzlaff invented instant replay in 1955 when he used a hot processor to produce a wet-film replay of a goal. Mr. Retzlaff went on to revolutionize sports broadcasting at CBC with innovative camera angles and techniques still used today. He also became the first recipient of the Foster Hewitt Award before it was linked with the Hockey Hall of Fame.

1968: Canada gets a new ‘anthem’

After opening with composer Howard Cable’s Saturday’s Game theme song for 16 years, the show commissioned a new opener. Dolores Claman and Jerry Toth’s The Hockey Theme quickly became known as Canada’s second national anthem. In June of 2008, CBC announced it could not reach an agreement with the song’s publishers, so the popular tune was licensed by CTV. That October, CBC solicited original anthems from Canadians before choosing Colin Oberst’s Canadian Gold.

1981: Coach’s Corner begins

Don Cherry, the man behind some of the flashiest suits and most controversial hockey comments in the country, began hosting his Coach’s Corner segment in 1981. The former Vancouver Canucks player and Boston Bruins coach was originally hired as a colour commentator, but the network did not like Mr. Cherry’s tendency to openly cheer for teams. Instead, CBC created Coach’s Corner, giving Mr. Cherry a segment during the first intermission to be opinionated and critical of players and games. He shared the slot with sports journalist Dave Hodge until his current co-host Ron MacLean replaced Hodge in 1987.

April 18, 1988: NHL game in the dark

During the first game of a playoff series between the Montreal Canadiens and the Boston Bruins, a power outage in Quebec kept the arena in the dark. Finally, the arena’s generators kicked in, lighting enough of the rink to keep the game in session – but not enough to keep CBC airing. The network was forced to abandon its coverage of the game.

2000: Hockey Day in Canada premieres

In 2000, CBC launched Hockey Day in Canada, broadcasting from Toronto. The annual special typically begins with hockey features followed by three games played between Canadian teams. The day is usually broadcast from different locations each year. Past locations include Red Deer, Alta., and Iqaluit.

2004: La Soirée du hockey is cancelled

Despite airing games in French and English since 1952, CBC cancelled its French edition in 2004. Instead, the network chose to simulcast NHL coverage on Radio-Canada. While the series usually broadcast Montreal Canadiens games, it also frequently covered the Quebec Nordiques and Ottawa Senators.

2004: NHL lockout

The 2004-2005 NHL season was cancelled because of a salary structure dispute between the players union and the league. The lockout marked the first time the Stanley Cup was not awarded since 1919 and the first time a major sports league in North America cancelled a season because of a labour dispute. With no NHL games to broadcast, CBC cancelled Hockey Night in Canada and replaced it with movie programming hosted by Mr. MacLean at arenas across the country. When a second lockout hit the league in 2012, the network aired classic hockey games selected by viewer polling.

2008: Winter Classic launches

In 2008, the NHL began hosting its annual Winter Classic game, with two teams facing off on an outdoor rink. The first classic saw the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Buffalo Sabres 2-1 before a crowd of more than 71,000 fans. On CBC, the game attracted 1.17 million viewers, second only to the 2.16 million who watched Wayne Gretzky’s farewell game at Madison Square Garden in April, 1999.

2011: Hockey Night in Canada in Punjabi cancelled

In October, 2011, CBC cancelled its Punjabi broadcasts despite Punjabi being the fourth-most common non-official language in Canada at the time. The network said the series would cease airing because it could not find a sponsor to help with growing production costs. The cancellation didn’t last long. After criticism from the public, Punjabi broadcasts of games returned to CBC with sponsorship from Chevrolet Canada in early December.

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