CBC Digital Archives

The press gondola at Maple Leaf Gardens

"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.

The Maple Leaf Gardens broadcasting gondola is a young hockey fan's dream and an acrophobe's nightmare. In this look back at Hewitt's illustrious career, we are taken up into the famed gondola and hear accounts of how its dizzying height has made strong men go weak in the knees. The feeling of most visitors is best summed up by Conn Smythe: "I'd just as soon go up in an airplane with no pilot." 
• For the first three years he broadcast Maple Leaf games, Hewitt was perched in the rafters of the Mutual Street Arena. When Conn Smythe built Maple Leaf Gardens, he gave Foster Hewitt Productions exclusive broadcasting rights not just to hockey but to all events held at the facility. Hewitt even arranged for all advertising himself, keeping an undisclosed percentage.

• While the Gardens was being built, Hewitt started planning his new broadcasting location. He and a building contractor spent an afternoon checking out every floor of the nearby 20-storey Eaton's building. He decided that the fifth floor was the best position from which to watch pedestrians on the street below, and decided the broadcast booth should be the same height.

• The first season at the Gardens was sponsored exclusively by General Motors. According to Scott Young's Hello Canada! The Life and Times of Foster Hewitt, the gondola got its name from C.M. Passmore, who had arranged the GM sponsorship. When the advertising executive first saw Hewitt's broadcasting booth, which resembled a long, suspended tube, he remarked, "It looks just like the gondola on an airship." Hewitt soon began using the name in his broadcasts.

• When first constructed, the gondola could only be reached by a catwalk that had no guardrails. Then there was an almost vertical ladder to descend to the gondola, which was suspended some 20 metres above the ice.

• From the gondola, Hewitt's play-by-play was transmitted over telegraph lines to radio stations in Ontario and then across the country.

• On Hockey Night in Canada, Foster Hewitt began with a now-legendary greeting: "Hello, Canada - and hockey fans in the United States and Newfoundland." Newfoundland joined Canada on March 31, 1949.
Medium: Television
Program: Telescope
Broadcast Date: March 19, 1965
Guest(s): Foster Hewitt, Mel Lovell, H.J. Merit, Joe Primeau, Conn Smythe, Bob Woods
Host: Fletcher Markle
Duration: 7:18

Last updated: April 26, 2013

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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