From Foster Hewitt to Don and Ron
Celebrating 65 years of hits and hijinks on Hockey Night in Canada
In the fall of 1952, Hockey Night in Canada first hit the airwaves in Montreal, and 65 years later, Canadian families across the country still hunkered down in front of the TV on Saturday evenings to watch the good old hockey game.
For years, the Saturday broadcast would begin with a game in progress, but in 1968, HNIC started showing a game in its entirety a year after the network added colour. It was a brave new world.
Foster Hewitt, a local kid who attended Upper Canada College, helmed the broadcast in Toronto as the play-byplay announcer, whereas Rene Lecavalier handled the duties in Montreal. Hewitt retired in 1958 and passed his microphone on to his son Bill who took over the role.
One element of the show that remained rather consistent was the iconic theme music, aptly dubbed “The Hockey Theme,” which was composed in 1968 by Dolores Claman. The CBC used the music on the broadcast until it managed to lose the rights to CTV in 2008.
There have been many more memorable hosts on the show, from Bob Cole and Howie Meeker to Dave Hodge, but since Don Cherry and Ron MacLean joined the HNIC crew, they have been synonymous with it and with hockey in Canada.
Cherry is, of course, a former pro hockey player and coach who joined the broadcast team in 1980 to work alongside Hodge before becoming a colour commentator in 1981, launching the now legendary Coach’s Corner segments in between periods of the game being broadcast. MacLean took over for Hodge in 1986 and became the perfect foil to Cherry’s over-the-top bluster over the last three decades.
Although there was a slight misstep when George Stroumboulopoulos and his skinny pants tried to hep up the HNIC set, that didn’t last long.
Hockey Night reliably returns to us every Saturday of the season, and while the faces and songs may change, our great Canadian game remains the same.
Foster Hewitt from his broadcast perch in Maple Leaf Gardens
Ron MacLean and Don Cherry, together for more than three decades
Hockey Night in Canada’s Bob Cole (left) alongside Bobby Orr