NHL Hockey: Hockey Night in Canada (HNIC)

(NHL) Hockey Night in Canada
Hockey Night in Canada (HNIC) is a television broadcast of National Hockey League games in Canada, produced by CBC Sports. Hockey Night consistently remains one of the highest-rated Canadian programs on television. It is also the world's oldest sports-related television program still on the air. The intermission highlight on HNIC is Coach's Corner, a segment featuring Don Cherry and Ron MacLean.

Hockey Night in Canada has its origins in the national radio broadcasting of Toronto Maple Leafs hockey games in January 1931 over the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission(CRBC) network. After a few seasons, Imperial Oil of Canada took over the sponsorship from General Motors Products of Canada and the program was known as the Imperial Oil Hockey Broadcast, being broadcast at 9pm Eastern Time (the beginning of the second period of play) over the network of the CBC (successor to the CRBC). 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. In Quebec, Doug Smith and Elmer Ferguson broadcast 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.

Hockey Night in Canada began airing on Saturday nights on CBC Television in 1952, retaining Imperial Oil 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.

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 early 1960s, the broadcast time was moved to 8:30 pm Eastern Time, which allowed the game to be joined in progress during the first period. Starting in the fall of 1968, regular-season games were shown in their entirety. 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, in order to give the game's greatest star network exposure in Canada. These games were often joined in progress, as the regular start time for HNIC was still 8:00 Eastern Time and the Kings home games began at 7:30 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. In 1998, the start times were moved thirty minutes earlier.

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. Present day
CBC has extended its broadcast contract with the NHL through the 2013-2014 season.

The possible movement of Hockey Night in Canada to another broadcaster caused some controversy and discussion during the 2006-2007 hockey season. Canadian private network CTV had outbid the CBC for Canadian television rights to the 2010 and 2012 Olympics as well as the major television package for curling. The broadcast requirements would have focused on CTV-owned TSN (The Sports Network), a cable channel which already carries Canadian NHL hockey during the week as well as other NHL games throughout the season.

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, Hockey Night in Canada could not be used as the name is owned by CBC, unless CTVglobemedia pays royalties to CBC in order to use that name.

The new deal allows TSN to expand its coverage, while maintaining the more-than-50-year tradition of Hockey Night in Canada. CBC will be limited in the number of games it can show per team, particularly so that TSN and Leafs TV have access to more Maple Leafs games. Other teams will theoretically gain more appearances on the show, which is important for their revenue because the Canadian teams do not split the rights fee on a completely equal basis.

In early September 2007, CBC announced a new Hockey Night in Canada Radio show to air on Sirius Satellite Radio channel 122 (Sports Play-by-Play 1) beginning October 1. While the broadcaster trumpeted the launch as the return "back to the radio airwaves" for HNIC, Sirius no longer has the right to broadcast NHL games, much less an HNIC simulcast. The new HNIC Radio will be a separate entity on which only a few HNIC commentators will regularly appear. The radio broadcast will be hosted by Canadian sports broadcaster Jeff Marek. Pregame show Hockey Night in Canada coverage typically begins 30 minutes prior to the opening faceoff of the first game with the pregame show called Saturday Night. Ron MacLean hosts the program. Elliotte Friedman features a segment called The Headliner that examines a range of issues in the NHL.

Regular Season

Pregame show
Hockey Night in Canada coverage typically begins 30 minutes prior to the opening faceoff of the first game with the pregame show called Saturday Night. Ron MacLean hosts the program. Elliotte Friedman features a segment called The Headliner that examines a range of issues in the NHL.

Game 1
The first game of the Saturday night doubleheader typically originates in Eastern Canada, beginning at 7 p.m. Eastern Time. Atlantic regions can see it at 8 p.m., while the Pacific area can see it at 4 p.m. This game usually features a Canadian team from the Eastern Conference (almost always the Toronto Maple Leafs). Ron MacLean hosts the entire evening broadcast, usually from the arena of the featured game. Play-by-play is usually provided by veteran Bob Cole, who started broadcasting NHL games on radio in 1969. Game analyst Harry Neale joined Cole in the broadcast booth in 1986. On occasion, one member of the pair (or both) is switched to another game. Elliotte Friedman is the reporter.

The Hockey Night in Canada logo, used until 1998 on CBC, and 2004 on Radio-Canada.At the end of the first period, MacLean hosts Coach's Corner, featuring the show's star and former NHL Coach of the Year, Don Cherry. On Coach's Corner, Don Cherry, also known as "Grapes", analyzes the game's first period, as well as gives tips on various points of hockey, with Ron MacLean being 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 Frenchmen 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.

CBC also opted not to place on its website a segment where Cherry and MacLean debated the Iraq War shortly after it began in 2003.

This segment, the highest-rated spot on Canadian television, 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 and reporter Scott Morrison host the Satellite Hotstove, a segment that features hockey journalists from across North America, who debate and speculate on issues facing hockey. Eric Duhatschek and Pierre LeBrun make regular appearances on this segment, as did Al Strachan of the Toronto Sun and John Davidson of the MSG Network in New York. Strachan, however, was rumoured to have been removed from the segment by the CBC due to pressure from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman prior to the 2005-06 season. During non-Saturday playoff games, After 40 Minutes, which normally features MacLean interviewing league or team officials, airs instead.

Following the "three stars" selection of the first game, and before the faceoff of Game 2, MacLean and Cherry return to give updates on scores and highlights from around the league. They also conduct interviews with players and provide a preview of the upcoming game.

Game 2
The second game airs at 10 p.m. ET (7 p.m. PT) featuring one of the three teams from Western Canada (the 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. Since 2005-06, the lead play-by-play man for the second half of the double-header has been Jim Hughson, who also calls Vancouver Canucks broadcasts on Rogers Sportsnet Pacific. Starting in 2007-08, Hughson will be paired mainly with analyst Craig Simpson, while potentially working some games with Greg Millen. Mark Lee and/or Don Wittman handle play-by-play duties when the CBC broadcasts more than two games in one night. Other announcers, such as Dean Brown, John Garrett, Garry Galley and Cassie Campbell have also made occasional appearances in the broadcast booth. (However, Campbell is usually a rinkside reporter for one of the games.)

After the first period of the second game, a regular feature entitled Behind the Mask is featured with former NHL goaltender Kelly Hrudey where he is joined by Scott Oake going over certain plays he noticed in the night's games. Hrudey frequently uses a Telestrator to illustrate his points. This segment is generally followed by a CBC News brief, which is not part of HNIC itself. The second intermission generally consists of scores and highlights.

The broadcast will also occasionally originate from a U.S. city playing host to a Canadian team. This is more common with the second, Western game, because the Toronto Maple Leafs are almost always at home on Saturday nights, or visiting one of two rivals, the Montreal Canadiens or Ottawa Senators. A few times each year, HNIC will broadcast a Leafs game from a U.S. city, and on those occasions MacLean and Cherry host the double-header from the site of the Western game.

Only on rare occasions has HNIC broadcast regular season games involving two U.S.-based teams, and this has usually been due to labour issues or an extremely special occasion (such as Wayne Gretzky's final game in 1999).

After hours
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 with hosts Scott Oake and Kelly Hrudey. The wrap-up usually includes a guest appearance by an NHL player or coach. Hrudey frequently joins MacLean and Cherry for selected broadcasts.

In the Eastern Time, it is shown at 1 a.m., while the Atlantic region can see it at 2 a.m. (or 3 a.m. if clocks are expected to turn forward one hour). Of course, Pacific regions can see it at 10 p.m. Newfoundland regions can see it as late as 2:30 a.m. (or 3:30 a.m. if clocks are expected to turn forward one hour).

Should Game 2 finish early, After Hours starts earlier than it used to be. If Game 2 finishes late after the "After Hours" starts, After Hours could show until the top of the next hour.

CBC also provides extensive Stanley Cup playoff coverage every spring with a focus on Canadian teams. They also have the rights to one conference final (or both, if a Canadian team is playing in both) and 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. All playoff games involving Canadian teams are aired by the CBC, though not always on a national basis.

During the first intermission of 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.

Hockey Day in Canada
Hockey Day in Canada is an annual special broadcast to celebrate the game in Canada that includes features all afternoon, leading up to a tripleheader of NHL action featuring the six Canadian teams (Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Vancouver Canucks). 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 be held in January (January 13), though no sporting events key to Canada were scheduled.

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 also reached out to other ethnic groups as well -- the 2007 event on January 13, 2007 featured Italian language commentary of the Vancouver Canucks / Toronto Maple Leafs matchup, which was seen on the Telelatino (TLN) cable channel, with special features and commentary by Alf DeBlassis, who hosts soccer games for TLN. This was the first time Hockey Night in Canada was presented in Italian.

Hockey Day in Canada has fast become a tradition among Canadian hockey fans, taking on the role of an unofficial holiday. In some communities, such as the case with 2006's location, Stephenville, Newfoundland and Labrador, it is said that Hockey Day is "bigger than Santa."

Due to the NHL unbalanced schedule that will see some teams from the Western Conference and the Eastern Conference meet every three years, the Hockey Day in Canada for the 2007-08 season is going to feature four games in three time slots: two all-Canadian matchups (both airing at 7PM EST and being split in broadcast territory) with the other two remaining teams facing two American teams, the Detroit Red Wings and Colorado Avalanche, on Canadian soil in the afternoon game and the late game respectively.

Broadcast locations
2000 - Toronto, Ontario
2001 - Red Deer, Alberta
2002 - Windsor, Nova Scotia
2003 - Iqaluit, Nunavut
2004 - Shaunavon, Saskatchewan
2005 - none
2006 - Stephenville, Newfoundland and Labrador (January 7)
2007 - Nelson, British Columbia (January 13)
2008 - Winkler, Manitoba (February 9)
In January 2005, due to the NHL labour dispute, the CBC canceled 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.

Movie Night in Canada
During the 2004-2005 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.

Availability outside of Canada
During the era that HNIC was on radio, it was broadcast over several powerful CBC 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. This has waned thanks to the expansion of local team TV coverage on regional sports networks.

NHL Center Ice offers Hockey Night in Canada at the same time as the CBC broadcast, airing the entire program from the Saturday Night pregame show through the HNIC After Hours postgame show.

Additionally, U.S. cable television outlets near the international border (notably major markets such as Detroit, Buffalo, and Seattle) typically carry a nearby CBC affiliate on their systems (though some cable systems in Michigan carry the distant CBMT from Montreal). Seattle's NBC affiliate KING-TV even shunted some 2006 playoff coverage to sister independent KONG-TV, apparently because it thought most fans preferred the CBC broadcast, while non-hockey fans would rather watch local news (Seattle's NBC affiliate is distributed in Canada).

During the 2007 playoffs, the cable television channel OLN, now Versus, simulcasts CBC's coverage of some selected games, generally first and second round games 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.

Hockey Night in Canada is also broadcast live and as-live in the UK and Ireland and some other European markets, on the North American Sports Network (NASN), a sports channel on cable and satellite. The pre and post-game segments are not shown, but the entirety of the two games are shown, as well as the segments between periods.

Dave Hodge and Howie Meeker in the classic Hockey Night in Canada jackets. The legendary Foster Hewitt, who had developed a style that welcomed Canadians to the radio broadcast each week, had to prove 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. He was followed (in no particular order) by Danny Gallivan, Dan Kelly, Dick Irvin, Jr., Jim Robson, Bob Cole, and Hewitt's son, Bill Hewitt. Previous show hosts included Wes McKnight, Ward Cornell, Jack Dennett, Ted Darling, Ken Daniels and Dave Hodge. The show's current host is Ron MacLean.

Dean Brown: Play-by-Play
Cassie Campbell: Rinkside Reporter
Don Cherry: Studio Analyst
Bob Cole: Play-by-Play
Elliotte Friedman: Studio Host / Rinkside Reporter
John Garrett: Colour Commentator
Garry Galley: Colour Commentator
Kelly Hrudey: Studio Analyst
Jim Hughson: Play-by-Play
Mark Lee: Play-by-Play
Ron MacLean: Studio Host
Greg Millen: Colour Commentator
Harry Neale: Colour Commentator
Scott Oake: Studio Host / Rinkside Reporter
Bruce Rainnie: Rinkside Reporter
Craig Simpson: Colour Commentator
Don Wittman: Play-by-Play

Steve Armitage: Rinkside Reporter, Studio Host (1977-2006)
Scotty Bowman: Colour Commentator (1987-1990)
Rick Bowness: Studio Analyst (1993-1996)
Ward Cornell: Studio Host (1958-1971)
Marc Crawford: Colour Commentator (1998-1999)
Chris Cuthbert: Play-by-Play / Rinkside Reporter (1984-2004)
Keith Dancy: Colour Commentator (1952-1966)
Ken Daniels Play-by-Play (1992-1997)
Ted Darling: Studio Host (1955-1970)
John Davidson: Colour Commentator (1983-1986, 1995-2006)
Jack Dennett: Studio Host
Gary Dornhoefer: Colour Commentator (1978-1986)
Elmer Ferguson: Colour Commentator
John Ferguson: Colour Commentator (1973-1975)
Patrick Flatley: Colour Commentator (1998-1999)
Danny Gallivan: Play-by-Play (1952-1984)
Bob Goldham: Colour Commentator (1960-1964)
Bill Good, Jr.: Studio Host (1970-1977)
Bill Hewitt: Play-by-Play (1958-1982)
Foster Hewitt: Play-by-Play, Colour Commentator (1952-1960)
Dave Hodge: Studio Host (1971-1987)
Bobby Hull: Colour Commentator (1980-1983)
Dick Irvin, Jr.: Play-by-Play / Colour Commentator / Studio Host (1966-1999)
Dan Kelly: Play-by-Play (1977-1980)
Doug MacLean: Colour Commentator
Brian McFarlane: Colour Commentator, Studio Host (1964-1989)
Wes McKnight: Studio Host (1952-1958)
Howie Meeker: Colour Commentator, Studio Analyst (1969-1987)
Lou Nanne: Colour Commentator (1979)
Jim Peplinski: Colour Commentator (1990-1995, 1997)
Gerry Pinder: Colour Commentator (1979-1981)
Walter Pratt: Colour Commentator / Studio Analyst (1970-1977)
Mickey Redmond: Colour Commentator (1980-1987)
Drew Remenda: Colour Commentator (2006-2007)
Glenn Resch: Colour Commentator (1978, 1988)
Jim Robson: Play-by-Play (1970-1985)
Steve Shutt: Colour Commentator (1990-1994)
Doug Smith: Play-by-Play
John Wells: Rinkside Reporter (1979-1984)

Theme Music
The famous theme music, The Hockey Theme, was written in 1968 by Dolores Claman and has been referred to as Canada's second national anthem[3]. The theme was updated in 1988 when the show was retitled Molson Hockey Night in Canada on CBC. In 1998, the theme was again updated, when Labatt became the main sponsor, and the show was back to being called Hockey Night in Canada, even though the announcers always tacked on "brought to you by Labatt Blue" afterwards (La Soirée du hockey continued to use the Molson theme up until its discontinuation in 2004). Other theme updates occurred in 2000 and 2001, but a new theme similar to the Molson theme was brought back at the start of the 2004 playoffs, although it was only used during the opening (around this time, there was no title sponsor).

In November 2004, Dolores Claman and her publisher initiated legal action against CBC for breach of copyright, alleging, among other things, that theme was used on other CBC programs, and used on broadcasts outside Canada, without consent. As of late 2006, the case remains ongoing.

Hockey Night in Canada has received 4 Gemini Awards out of 6 nominations most notably for Ron MacLean.
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
Critics of what the show chooses to program allege that the Eastern broadcast in particular favors teams from Ontario, especially the Toronto Maple Leafs. Some feel that Toronto games are aired too often across the network, usually to the detriment of the Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens, whose fans sometimes do not see a Saturday night game of their teams, even when those teams are playing at home. The situation is similar to that faced by fans in the United States.

CBC has said that scheduling Leafs games across so much of the network makes sense considering budget cuts. The Windsor area may simply not have a large enough population to receive Detroit Red Wings coverage during the regular season, although CBC does sometimes split its feed during the playoffs to make Red Wings games available, for instance the first round of the 2006 playoffs against Edmonton.

Another incident was when CBC refused to air the jersey retirement ceremony for Canadiens legend and credited slapshot inventor Boom Boom Geoffrion in English, despite months of notice.

In addition, with the CBC having exclusive English-language broadcast rights to NHL games in Canada on Saturdays, critics say that it abuses this power by refusing to air some games involving Canadian teams without allowing local or regional broadcasters (such as Rogers Sportsnet) the ability to show the local team's games. In order to minimize the number of times this occurs throughout the season, teams in Western Canada are usually given schedules that make them play less frequently on Saturdays than Toronto. TSN has similar English-language exclusivity on Wednesday nights. CBC does offer regional coverage during the playoffs when multiple Canadian teams are involved. All Canadiens games air in French on RDS without restriction.

The CBC has also taken criticism from Western-based hockey fans for not broadcasting the second game of the doubleheader in HDTV. As such, usually only the 7 p.m. game involving the Toronto Maple Leafs were shown in HD during the 2005-06 season, and sometimes CBC would not show either game in high definition. As of the 2006 Playoffs, the CBC added another HDTV broadcast truck to allow 2 games on Saturday to be in HDTV.

Also, viewers wishing to watch the second game of the double-header complain that they have sometimes been forced to view the first game's feed until its conclusion, as CBC rarely splits 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. In the past, especially late in the season if the second game had no playoff implications, the CBC would slowly wrap up the first game(s) including interviews and analysis, as well as take multiple commercial breaks, before finally joining the second game in progress, even in the Western NHL markets.

Criticism of the show's content often focuses around Don Cherry, who has made several controversial statements during his live on-air segments. He has been accused of racism 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. Despite these controversies, Cherry's popularity among Canadians endures.

The show's hardly-veiled bias towards Canadian teams draws some criticism, especially from American regions near the Canadian border that receive CBC telecasts, as well as American customers with the NHL Center Ice pay-per-view package. Supporters are quick to point out that the show is a Canadian show on a Canadian network, that bias towards the country's teams is therefore appropriate and should be expected, and claim that a similar bias is present in reverse on American networks' telecasts involving Canadian teams (especially in baseball and basketball). Opponents claim that coverage should be more neutral toward the competing teams, as they believe most American broadcasters practice even when Canadian-based teams are involved.
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