Friday (June 14) marked the end of an era in the landscape of televised Canadian hockey.
As the Los Angeles Kings defenceman Alex Martinez was depositing a loose puck in the net behind the New York Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist to finish the Kings’ run to the Stanley Cup, Hockey Night In Canada was finishing its season.
More than that, the CBC’s iconic hockey broadcast may have been finishing up its run in the format we’ve come to love.
Next season, Rogers will be the commanding force in hockey broadcasting. HNIC will continue for four more seasons, but CBC will not have creative control as a part of the record 12-year, $5.2 billion deal signed between the National Hockey League and Rogers in November.
It will become one of several feeds being used by Rogers to show Canada’s national winter sport.
No one knows how it will look when hockey resumes next fall, but many believe we will lose the folksy way the game was presented by CBC.
HNIC, more than likely, has become a hockey fan’s first experience with the game. Saturday night became a hockey fan’s mecca. Every weekend, we would make the trek together to couches, television sets or sheds to the holy place.
Sometimes, we’re garbed in the sacred symbols of our favourite teams, other times we’re not.
Either way, we’re there to pay homage to the game we love.
HNIC was more than an avenue to our favourite game. It became a part of our everyday lives.
Growing up, we listened to Don Cherry more than our parents, while Bob Cole and Harry Neale wrote a symphony when calling a game.
HNIC created memories and still does.
You’ll always smile at Cherry giving Doug Gilmour a smooch on the cheek during the Leafs’ and wait with baited breathe to see what eye-raising suit Cherry will show up in.
Everyone will remember when Ron McLean and Cherry switched sides.
Now, it’s more than just Cherry that stands out. There are countless hockey moments that happened on HNIC.
All of the greats, and not so greats, took their turn on the program.
Games between the Maple Leafs and the Canadiens always had that big game feel, and Wayne Gretzky always worked magic between the hours of 8:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Well, when he played for the Rangers anyway.
There are family moments too. Maybe you watched your first hockey game on a Saturday night when you were five. To your left was your dad, while your grandfather sat in an easy chair off to the right.
Before the start of each game, you hastily put on your pajamas and got back downstairs in record time. You couldn’t miss the opening notes of the HNIC theme.
In a way, the faces you saw became family. The theme was your first bedtime song, Cole was your first teacher and Cherry was your first coach.
In true HNIC fashion, memories were created on its final broadcast this season.
While losing its feed of the celebrations may not have been how it wanted to go out, it was just another way to celebrate what made the program great.
It’s safe to say, we might never see the same format again. The production truck will shut off its lights for the last time and the set will be different.
Bob Cole will still be there doing what he was meant to do, and that is be Canada’s version of Vin Scully.
But, something is sure to be different.
Oh, we’ll still watch. We will always watch, it’s in our DNA.
If we never see you in your current format again Hockey Night, thank you for giving us more than enough memories.
— Nicholas Mercer is a reporter/photographer with The Compass. He lives in Bay Roberts and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org