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Evolution of the hockey broadcast

CBC Television convinced journalist Peter Gzowski to front this late-night talk show after the success at the helm of CBC Radio's This Country in The Morning. In 1976, late-night talk shows were new territory for CBC Television, and the show was panned from the start. But Gzowski soldiered on for two seasons, interviewing a host of personalities five nights a week at 11:30 p.m.

"He shoots, he scores!" With those words, legendary hockey broadcaster Foster Hewitt united Canada each Saturday night. From his inauspicious first broadcast (shouting into a telephone from a foggy glass booth in 1923) to the momentous Summit Series of 1972 and beyond, Hewitt was Canada's voice of hockey for half a century.

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Watching hockey games full-time for half a century teaches you a thing or two. Foster Hewitt is long retired from CBC, and now runs his own radio station. But he's happy to make a return visit to share a few lessons learned with the next generation of CBC hosts. In this clip, Hewitt and Peter Gzowski discuss difference between hockey on radio and on television, Hewitt's favourite players of all time, and the time he deliberately announced a goal that didn't happen. 
• In the opening monologue to this episode of 90 Minutes Live, Peter Gzowski told the audience that his father had been an employee of Imperial Oil (main sponsor of Hockey Night in Canada) and once smuggled young Peter into the broadcasting gondola. Gzowski recalled annoying Hewitt by banging a pair of headphones on the table. He said the trip to the gondola was so exciting he made himself sick. Gzowski later became a noted sportswriter himself.

• Hewitt believed station CKEY was listening to his broadcasts and repeating his words, since they had nobody covering Maple Leafs away games yet still aired play-by-plays. Hewitt and NHL president Clarence Campbell came up with the idea to broadcast fake goals, and CKEY took the bait, repeating the misinformation.
• Hewitt presented evidence of the piracy to the CBC (which at the time also acted as the regulatory agency for Canadian broadcasting.) The CBC ruled the broadcasts illegal and ordered CKEY to stop.

• At age 69, Foster Hewitt was asked to return to television to cover the famous 1972 Summit Series between Team Canada and the Soviet Union, the biggest event in hockey history.
• Many fans believe Hewitt's play-by-play of the final game in the series, culminating in his exuberant cry of "Henderson has scored for Canada!" to be Hewitt's finest broadcast.

• Not everyone was delighted to see Hewitt named to call the series. In Montreal, fans were angry that a Toronto-centric "fossil" was picked to call the play-by-play for game one in their town instead of their local commentator. In many bars, both anglophone and francophone Montrealers chose instead to watch the game in French with Radio-Canada host René Lecavellier.

• Hewitt often said his favourite hockey player was the colourful Eddie Shore (1902-1985) because "he was rough, tough and nasty." Eddie Shore played in the NHL for 14 seasons between 1926 and 1940. He is the only defenceman to win the Hart Trophy for the league's most valuable player four times (1933, 1935, 1936 and 1938). Only Wayne Gretzky (9) and Gordie Howe (6) have won it more times. Shore helped the Boston Bruins win the Stanley Cup in 1929 and 1939.

• In 1978 CKFH lost the rights to carry Toronto Maple Leaf games and, after calling some 3,000 hockey games, Hewitt went off the air. He occasionally returned to television for special events, such as the annual NHL Oldtimers' game.

• In 1981 CKFH was bought by Telemedia and stopped using the call letters CKFH. Hewitt was 77, and told Front Page Challenge that the sum he received was "between $3 million and $5 million." It was the end of a 58-year broadcasting career, though Hewitt maintained considerable holdings in Baton Broadcasting Ltd. as well as other investments.
Medium: Television
Program: 90 Minutes Live
Broadcast Date: Jan. 3, 1978
Guest(s): Foster Hewitt
Host: Peter Gzowski
Duration: 8:55

Last updated: November 27, 2013

Page consulted on November 13, 2014

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