CBC Television Network

Hockey Night in Canada

It was September of 1952 and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation was about to launch the first television stations in Canada. In anticipation of this, Imperial Oil, sponsor of Hockey Night in Canada on radio, had been engaged in talks with the CBC to begin televising hockey for the 1952-53 NHL season.

Although hockey on television was new to most Canadians, transmission of hockey games had occurred as far back as October 29, 1938 when the 2nd and 3rd periods of a game from Harringay arena in London, England were aired. On February 25, 1940, an experimental TV station in New York, W2XBS, broadcast a hockey game between the New York Rangers and the Montreal Canadiens to 300 fans. In November of 1946, KTLA in Los Angeles aired games from the Pacific Coast League and in the 1946-47 NHL season, the Rangers were the first NHL team to have their home games on television.
In preparation for the televising of hockey in Canada, an experimental video transmission of a Memorial Cup hockey game from Maple Leaf Gardens in April of 1952 took place. This telecast was a closed circuit viewing for the benefit of executives from CBC, Imperial Oil and the MacLarens advertising agency and all were impressed by Foster Hewitt’s call of the game.

Foster Hewitt, who had been calling HNIC games on radio since 1931, was the obvious choice to be the play-by-play man for games from Toronto. Hewitt had been studying the telecasting of hockey for years since the early experiments from New York’s Madison Square Gardens. 

In Montreal, Rene Lecavalier, a former radio war correspondent and cultural commentator, was chosen to call the play for the French-language television production from the Montreal Forum. It was on October 11, 1952 that Lecavalier described the first televised hockey game in Canada between the visiting Detroit Red Wings and the Montreal Canadiens. Three weeks later on November 1, 1952, Hewitt called the first game from Toronto between Boston and the Leafs.

 Hockey Night in Canada celebrated its 60th anniversary on CBC in 2012.

On Tuesday November 26th 2013, the National Hockey League and Rogers Communications announced jointly that Rogers had concluded an agreement with the NHL to acquire Canadian national rights to all NHL games, including the Stanley Cup Playoffs and Stanley Cup Final, on all of its platforms in all languages. The agreement would be for a twelve year period, concluding with the end of the 2025-26 season.

In addition to its exclusive rights for all playoff and Cup Final games, Rogers would have exclusive rights to special events such as future NHL All-Star Games and NHL Drafts.

The agreement also guaranteed there would be no further regionalization of games or local blackouts. Rogers would have three exclusive windows to broadcast any game involving a Canadian team — Wednesday nights, Saturday nights and Sunday nights. Fans would have the ability to watch any of those games regardless of geographical location within Canada.

As part of the agreement, CBC would continue to broadcast Hockey Night in Canada for at least the next four seasons, but Rogers would control the production and execution, including editorial content and on-air talent. Rogers would also earn the revenue from those broadcasts.

CBC would not receive any revenue from Hockey Night in Canada, but it would not have to spend any of its public dollars toward broadcasting it. The Stanley Cup Final would be broadcast on CBC.

TSN would continue with its regional coverage of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators, Winnipeg Jets and Montreal Canadiens.

As of February 6th 2014, no decision had been announced as to whether Hockey Night in Canada’s Coach’s Corner feature with Don Cherry would continue beyond the current season.

On March 10th 2014, Rogers unveiled the details of the new broadcast team for Hockey Night in Canada and Rogers’ other hockey properties. Replacing Ron MacLean as the lead host would be CBC broadcast personality George Stroumboulopoulos, who before becoming a talk show host had spent four years as a sports broadcaster at The Fan 590 in Toronto.

Ron MacLean would return with a reduced role, but would continue to hoist Coach’s Corner with Don Cherry on Hockey Night in Canada on Saturdays, and would be seen on Sunday nights hosting Hometown Hockey Community Celebration.

Jeff Marek, former host of Hockey Night in Canada on radio, would host Thursday Night Hockley on Sportsnet Radio 360, as well as the weekend afternoon NHL pre-game shows. Daren Millard, a seasoned broadcaster with Sportsnet since its inception, would host Wednesday Night hockey on Sportsnet Radio, as well as Toronto Maple Leafs regional radio broadcasts on Sportsnet.

(see separate story: Hockey Night in Canada on Television elsewhere on this site.)

Written by Paul Patskou – August, 2007