Growing up in Canada, I realized at a young age what Saturday night meant in this country. I knew that it was time to pull my hockey sweater out of the closet, huddle around a television with my family, and watch Hockey Night in Canada on CBC. Something else on TV? Too bad. Maybe we’ll flip to it at a commercial, but this is what we watch on Saturday night.
And that is how it’s always been.
I moved away to University and the tradition continued. Saturday was meant for sleeping in, doing little work, and then calling for a mandatory study break as soon as Hockey Night came on the air. My residence door opened, hockey fans united, and we watched the game. It was beautiful.
Next year, however, things will be a bit different.
As of about an hour ago, Hockey Night in Canada went off the air for the final time as a brand under the control of CBC. For the next 12 years, Rogers will have the rights to NHL games. CBC will still televise Hockey Night in Canada every Saturday night for the next four years, but Rogers will be in charge.
Thus, I just witnessed the end of an era. The Hockey Night in Canada I grew up watching will never be the same. It just won’t. A piece of my childhood is gone.
Ron MacLean is no longer the host, though he will still be there to try and tame Don Cherry during Coach’s Corner. But that’s it.
I have never lived in a world where Ron MacLean isn’t the individual guiding me through a Saturday evening of NHL action. If Hockey Night in Canada was a warm blanket for all of Canada, then MacLean was the one that tucked us in.
There are so many memories in my head revolving around Saturday night hockey. Many of them involve Bob Cole.
Bob Cole is a legend. If you didn’t know, now you know.
Hearing him on commentary every Saturday night was the highlight of my week. He made me feel like I was at the game, while simultaneously making me feel like I would soon be in the back of an ambulance because his exuberance in close games could help kick start a heart attack. It was worth it though.
I distinctly remember when Maple Leaf Gardens closed in 1999. At the final game, Cole remarked: “This great and admired lady has been just fine since 1931, thank you, well times change and one must move on.”
I don’t know why, but that line has always stuck with me. It was so simple, but offered so much finality to the occasion.
When the Leafs were making their playoff runs in the early 2000s, I sat at home while Bob Cole narrated the proceedings. His level of excitement will never be matched.
Over the last few years, Cole’s role has diminished. He still called games, but he was no longer the primary play-by-play man for CBC. He went from calling every Leafs game on a Saturday night to only calling a handful. But for the few games he was reunited with Leafs Nation, it felt like Christmas – for me, at least.
He’ll still be around when Rogers takes over, but I’m selfish and I long for the days where he was “the guy.” Also, he should be calling the Stanley Cup Finals until the day he chooses to walk away. Just sayin’.
Ron MacLean and Bob Cole are the main reasons why my Grade 8 yearbook says I wanted to be a Sports Reporter when I grew up.
No one puts on a better hockey broadcast in this country than CBC. We loved the theme song. Then they lost the rights to it and we had to learn to love a new theme song. And we did.
There is just something very homey, and very Canadian, about Hockey Night in Canada that brings people together. Maybe it is the montages that take our breath away. Or maybe it is the opening of every broadcast with fans outside the arena announcing which games were coming up next. Or maybe it is Don Cherry – a man in custom-made suits that yells at us for 7 glorious minutes every week.
I can only hope that Rogers gives Hockey Night in Canada that same Saturday night feel next year. In this country, there is a big difference between a hockey game on a Monday and a hockey game on a Saturday. If I tune in and it feels like I’m watching a Monday night game, I’ll be extremely disappointed.
They say that change is good. They also say that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Meanwhile, Bob Cole says times changes and one must move on.
Maybe Bob is right.
Maybe the more things change, the more they remain the same.
After all, “the place will be rocking cause it’s Saturday night.”