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television program has been a part of my life for 18 years. It has
served a variety of different purposes. Among other things, its functions
have ranged from being a provider of quality time with my father
to existing as an educational medium about a business in which I'm
interested. Hockey Night in Canada on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
has been a significant part of my life.
Ever since I can remember watching television, on a small black and white television
set in the corner of the living room, my Saturday nights included Hockey Night
in Canada. I can't remember the players or specific details about the games
but I do remember watching hockey. It aired at 8 p.m. I was so lucky to see
the first ten minutes of the game because every other night of the week I had
to be in bed much earlier. I was old enough to realize that this was a treat.
From October until May I knew what I was doing on Saturday before bed. Maybe
that's why I was so well-behaved in church on Sunday morning; I didn't want
my hockey games taken away.
My father grew up in Syracuse and went to college in Toronto. He wasn't a big
hockey fan during his childhood but he learned to appreciate the games at Maple
Leaf Gardens in Toronto. I don't really know why we always watched the games
together, but it was always just the two of us. Mom would join us during the
My first distinct memory of Hockey Night in Canada occurred in the autumn of
1981. The sun was still over Lake Ontario, a couple of hours had passed since
dinner. My dad asked me to go to bed. It wasn't a punishment, simply a request.
I was a little curious. It was still light outside and I hadn't gone to bed
this early in a long time. He told me that if I went to bed for a couple of
hours he would wake me up at 10 and we could watch the first game of the season
together. The defending champion New York Islanders were playing! I certainly
agreed and as promised my Dad woke me up at 10. He let me watch the whole game.
My father took a picture of me during the game. I was sitting on our old green
living room couch wearing Columbia blue pajamas with feet. On the coffee table
in front of me was a small bowl of potato chips and a glass of orange juice.
The next afternoon NFL football was meaningless. I was first and foremost a
A month later I began to learn how to skate, and that only made my Saturday
nights more meaningful. A chance to sit down with my father and watch the game
that I was beginning to fall in love with. As I got older the television set
changed. I could now associate colors with the teams and the set was a little
bigger. At the beginning of the game my father urged me to stand up during
the playing of the national anthems. He taught me the words and I sung along.
I actually knew the words to "Oh! Canada!" before I could handle
the "Star-Spangled Banner."
I had picked out the Chicago Blackhawks as my favorite team. Their distinguished
Native American logo appealed to me. Unfortunately they weren't the game of
choice very often for the CBC. Our Kingston, Ontario, affiliate usually showed
the Maple Leafs or Montreal Canadians. I distinctly remember one night in December.
We had made Christmas cookies during the afternoon. My sister and I were assigned
to put the frosting on the cookies later that evening. My Dad set up a card
table in the living room and we frosted the cookies in front of the television.
My sister wanted to watch "The Sound of Music" but she would have
to wait until next year. The Hockey Night in Canada game of the week featured
my favorite team, the Blackhawks, live from Chicago Stadium.
A couple of years had gone by and I was old enough to recognize my favorite
players. My allegiance went from Chicago to Boston. The Bruins were now my
team and their high-scoring centreman Rick Middleton was my favorite player.
We talked about the games in school and at hockey practice. Sometimes these
discussions turned into arguments. Andy Grimshaw liked the Canadians, Boston's
arch-rival. And Mike Nicholson cheered for the Edmonton Oilers, who had won
three Stanley Cups in a row. My bedtime was stretched to 9 and I tried to squeeze
every extra minute out of the clock so that I might be able to see the start
of the second period. But Coach's Corner usually marked my bedtime.
Coach's Corner is a unique feature of Hockey Night in Canada. A fairly successful
coach during the 1970s and early 1980s named Don Cherry sat in the Hockey Night
in Canada studios and voiced his opinions to the studio host and the television
audience during the first intermission of the game. He had a pretty large ego
during his coaching days and carried it into his television career. "Grapes" is
usually loud, sometimes obnoxious, but always very passionate about the game
he loves. Coach's Corner taught me to say what I feel, even though it might
not be popular with everyone else.
In sixth grade I stopped playing hockey. I was on a basketball team during
middle school but that didn't change my love for hockey. I could still be found
in front of the television on Saturday night, tuned into the CBC. Something
was missing from those memories though. My father didn't join me for as many
games. Hockey Night in Canada became a gathering place for my friends and me.
Throughout middle school and our ninth and tenth grade years, my buddies and
I got together on Friday nights and some Saturdays to play hockey in Joe Ford's
basement. We put plywood up around the open spaces to serve as boards and drew
advertisements to put on the walls. The basement floor had red and blue tape
on it to represent the red and blue lines. Goalie creases and face-off circles
were put on the floor as well.
Some of my teachers from high school like to tell the story of a particular
Friday in April of 1992. The six players who were chosen to participate in
the Ford Hockey Association Game of the Week put on pants, a nice shirt, and
a tie. Over the shirt and tie we each wore our hockey sweaters, as if we had
been drafted by the team on our shirts. It wasn't common attire in the halls
of Oswego High School which caused quite a few smiles among the faculty.
We had divided our group of six into two teams of three earlier in the week.
This was done to give teammates a chance to discuss strategy, and opponents
to begin the insults and predictions that went on before every game. These
actions usually took place during history or biology classes. We showed up
to the basement on Country Lane, which we affectionately called the Ford Memorial
Gardens, equipped with our sticks, tape, sweat pants, and hockey gloves. The
warm-ups began as music by the X-Clan played in the background. After everyone
had arrived, all of the loose tennis balls were placed back in the bucket and
the teams lined up on their respective blue lines. All six players sang "Oh!
Canada!" and the game began. It was an intense battle from the start and
after I caught an elbow from Jared Leduc, I dropped my gloves and began to
chase him. Before I could grab a hold of him he had shed his gloves and we
began to fight. We each landed a couple of shots. When all was said and done
I had a puffy lower lip from the original elbow. There was some discoloration
under his left eye, which as I later found out, was caused by my right fist.
You can imagine that Jared and I weren't on the best of terms for a while after
that. But that wasn't the case. When the game had ended, the six teammates
sat together in our "dressing rooms" drinking Crystal Pepsi and talking
about school, girls, the fight (which was common in our games), and some of
the goals that we had scored during our games both on the ice and in the basement.
The next night we all got together and watched Hockey Night in Canada. I sat
next to Jared. Our faces bore reminders of the previous night's conflict but
that didn't interrupt our friendship. We were two friends, sharing something
And if the basement league decided to meet on a Saturday, the VCR would be
set to record Hockey Night in Canada. When we had finished our game in the
cellar, the tape went in and we watched the game together. Hockey Night in
Canada was no longer a family thing as it had been for the first fifteen years
of our lives. It was where friends got together and had a good time.
It was a part of our friendship throughout high school. Hockey Night in Canada
was something we could count on. We graduated from Oswego High School on the
morning of June 24, 1995. During the afternoon our families had parties for
us and we were able to celebrate that special day with people we loved. Graduation
night was a chance to celebrate the end of an important part of our lives with
the friends that played a significant part in it. My friends and I got together
and watched the closing game of the 1995 Stanley Cup Finals. We talked about
our past and our futures, and Hockey Night in Canada was there.
I was on my way to the S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse
University. People in my hometown knew who I was. I was the "sports guy" on
WBUC, the high school's television station that had its programs broadcast
on local cable. I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to learn about
the television business through hands-on experience. We produced a daily news
show, where I served as Sports Director and Sports Anchor. I was also the play-by-play
man for WBUC Prime Time Sports. We took our portable studio out to games and
broadcast them on a tape-delay basis to the community. My first goal was to
convince the producer that we could, and should, broadcast the hockey games.
He agreed. His innovations and my enthusiasm made hockey our number one sports
presentation. It didn't hurt that our team was state-ranked and the city has
traditionally been very supportive of the game.
Hockey Night in Canada became a learning tool. I began to look at the games
from a producer's standpoint, asking myself questions about camera shot sequences,
CG design and presentation, and the announcer's word choice and tactics. The
games were no longer strictly for my enjoyment. I looked at the CBC broadcasts
with a critical eye and tried to learn from their expertise.
My generation has seen the birth of the compact disc, expansion of computing
capabilities, and wireless communications. But these amazing technologies haven't
had a significant impact on my life. Hockey Night in Canada helped me to define
and celebrate relationships. It's been an educator about a profession in which
I'm interested. But most importantly, it's just always been there. I can always
count on Hockey Night in Canada.
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