CBC Digital Archives

Habs, Red Wings play first hockey game on TV

Three colours, 24 Stanley Cups, over 3,000 victories, millions of fans – and 100 years. In 2009 the Montreal Canadiens celebrate their centennial as one of hockey's most legendary teams. The Habs have made Montrealers proud, but they are beloved far beyond their hometown for their star players and impressive records. CBC Digital Archives pays tribute to the bleu, blanc et rouge with 14 remarkable moments in Habs history.

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In an era when most hockey enthusiasts follow the on-ice exploits of their heroes on the radio, Montreal Canadiens fans become the first to see their team play a game on television. On Oct. 11, 1952, popular Quebec media personality René Lecavalier is behind the mike for Canada's first televised National Hockey League contest. In this retrospective clip, the inaugural edition of La Soirée du Hockey (the French-language equivalent of Hockey Night In Canada) features the Habs taking on the visiting Detroit Red Wings at the Montreal Forum.
• This season opener was a particularly contentious match, as the Red Wings swept the Canadiens in four straight games during the previous season's finals to capture the Stanley Cup. The game also pitted the NHL's two biggest names against each other: Montreal's Maurice Richard and Detroit's Gordie Howe.

• Television sets were prohibitively expensive for most Canadians in 1952 (only 10 per cent of households had one), so most of those watching at home were well-heeled enough to have attended Canadiens games in person.

• The Canadiens went on to win the game 2-1, bolstering many fans' positive impressions of the groundbreaking experiment.

• English Canada got its first glimpse of televised NHL hockey three weeks later. Foster Hewitt ascended the Maple Leaf Gardens catwalk in Toronto to provide play-by-play for the final two periods of a match between the Leafs and the Boston Bruins.

Medium: Television
Program: Hockey Night in Canada
Broadcast Date: Oct. 11, 1952
Duration: 1:36

Last updated: October 14, 2014

Page consulted on October 14, 2014

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