Oh, How I Miss the Hockey Night in Canada Theme

by Julia Smith

For 40 years - count 'em - 40 years, Canadians settled in front of their TV's to watch Hockey Night in Canada. If you hail from a country that wonders what makes Canadians tick, this national tradition is the closest thing you're going to get to a collective heart beating as one.

And every broadcast of Canada's great game began with The Hockey Theme, written in 1968 by Dolores Claman.

Here's how it sounded when I was a kid, growing up with a dad who never missed a game if he could help it.

The Hockey Theme is widely referred to as Canada's Second National Anthem. Listen to what Canadian soldiers serenade themselves with while on a tour of duty.

This tune is embedded in our psyche - big time.

Just watch the reaction the theme gets from two little boys.

So, one would think that CBC executives would know better than to mess up a good thing when they had it.

But that would be assuming too much. Especially from executives.

In their wisdom, CBC decided not to renew the license for the iconic Hockey Theme. I can just imagine the board meeting where this somehow made sense.

"We can have a contest! We can have a new theme that really speaks to Canadians!"

CTV executives - who smelled the blood in the water - snapped up the unwanted Hockey Theme for TSN, The Sports Network. Here's what their revamped Hockey Theme sounds like.

Pretty good, eh? But who settles down to watch hockey on TSN? Anyone? I wonder how many Canadians switch on TSN to hear the theme, then flip over to CBC to watch Hockey Night in Canada?

So, for Game 7 of the Stanley Cup playoffs, this is what I'm forced to listen to. Granted, it's got a great visual and audio montage of past hockey glory. But it seems to me the great visuals and sports announcing gold of the past is there to mask the unbearably generic sound of the new theme, by Colin Oberst.


  1. I am so with you, Julia. I grew up in Montreal in the sixties, when hockey ruled the city, and the games were broadcast twice a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays. That theme is part of our collective national memory, whether we're hockey fans or not (I am), and I can't understand the CBC letting it go.

    Julia, have you ever read "The Divine Ryans"? It's a few years old now, but full of hockey lore. It's set in the sixties, and the main character, a young boy, watches the Maple Leafs and the Canadiens as closely as my family did. A great story.

  2. I'm a yank and I'd never heard that! But I know what you mean. I hate it when a tradition gets messed up.
    For me, it's the WINSTON cup. I don't care if NASCAR changes their "image" by getting rid of the name they wore for when the tobacco companies supported them. They can call it the SPRINT cup but I won't. It's The WINSTON cup and always will be.
    I love the guys in Syria.
    CBC should go back to the old theme.

  3. Okay Canadian here who actually doesn't like hockey...I don't even know the rules. Even I know that hockey theme!! I was shocked that CBC let it go...but then I realized it was CBC and quickly got over my shock.

  4. I probably watch just as many games on TSN now than on CBC and you're right - its just to hear the theme. The new one is good, there's nothing wrong with it, but it isn't Hockey Night in Canada and it never will be.

  5. Wow, Julia,

    Thanks for this cultural insight. While I've heard the song, I love learning about the details that makes a country tap in to pride/heritage/tradition, etc. I've never met a Canadian I haven't liked. Cool post!

  6. Great post Julia. I completely agree with you. I find it interesting that with CBC's new theme they have a lot of audio to downplay the generic almost forgettable tune. Chalk it up to another CBC blunder.

  7. Can anybody say "New Coke"? *grin*

    The video of the two boys is hilarious!! Will they every learn???

    Great post!


  8. Great post, Julia - and wonderful clips! I love those two little boys, totally entranced by the theme song as soon as it played. Too funny.
    The Hershey Bears (in Hershey, PA) compete in the playoffs tonight. The local news stations were all over it. Fans are every bit as rabid south of the border.

  9. Linda - I'm just sitting down now for the start of the game! Woo hoo! I'm in Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia - home of Sidney Crosby!!

    My dad grew up in Quebec and was a passionate, lifelong Montreal fan. He always had a hockey game on the radio in the car, as well.

    I've heard of the Divine Ryans - I'll have to check it out.

    Jennifer - Thanks for popping by! If only the CBC could do it. CTV bought the rights in perpetuity.

    Christine - 'but then I realized it was CBC and quickly got over my shock.' - LOL!

    Kelly - Thanks for the watching-habits info. I've become very interested in finding out how many Canadians followed the theme over to TSN.

    Leanna - Our other cultural icon is Tim Horton's coffee! And Tim Horton was a hockey player, by the way...

    Joanna - Did you notice the unbearably moving tribute to the Stanley Cup that is an editing marvel?

    Chiron - New Coke!! LOL!

    Cate - I can't stop watching them. They're hilarious and joyful and just what encapsulates Canadians to me.


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