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‘From here, it looks like a herring…’

The Story

The year is 1942. CBC Radio is a mere six years old and Maple Leaf Gardens has been in existence for just over a decade. But Foster Hewitt, perched high above the ice in his broadcasting gondola, has been calling Toronto hockey games for almost two decades. For many Canadians, his exuberant, nasal voice is synonymous with hockey. In this excerpt, as Toronto and Detroit battle for the puck, we hear Hewitt describe a rowdy fan throwing a fish onto the ice, and are then treated to his trademark catchphrase: "He shoots, he scores!"

Medium: Radio
Program: CBC Radio Special
Broadcast Date: April 16, 1942
Host: Foster Hewitt
Duration: 5:00

Did You know?

• Foster Hewitt was born in Toronto on Nov. 21, 1902. His father, William, was a sports journalist, beginning work for the Toronto News at age 13. At age 20 he became sports editor for the News. Foster Hewitt's uncles Fred and Jim were also newspaper sports editors.

• Fascinated by radio, in 1921 Foster Hewitt imported some crystal radio sets to sell in Canada, then got a summer job manufacturing radios. Toronto Star owner Joe Atkinson was similarly enamoured with radio, starting his own radio station, CFCA (slogan: "Canada's First Covers America" or "Canada's Finest Covers America"). Foster learned through his father about an opening for a reporter who could work for both radio and print, and soon won the job.

• When he started work for the Star and CFCA, Foster Hewitt shared a desk with another cub reporter, Gordon Sinclair.

• In the early 1920s, Hewitt broadcast everything from music to baseball scores, bedtime stories for children to church services on CFCA. According to Sinclair, there was no such thing as scheduled programming in those days; the station went on the air only occasionally, catching whatever stray listeners it could.

• In a quest for more exciting programming, the station decided to try broadcasting a hockey game. According to his autobiography Foster Hewitt: His Own Story, on March 22, 1923, Hewitt was told to broadcast his first hockey game, an intermediate hockey playoff game between a team from Kitchener and Toronto Parkdale's Canoe Club team at the Mutual Street Arena.

• Hewitt called the game from a glass box containing a stool and an upright telephone, which he used to speak to the radio station. (Unbeknownst to Hewitt, his play-by-play was interrupted every few minutes by the operator asking "What number is it that you're calling, sir?")

• There were no air holes in the box, and in addition to being suffocating it was constantly fogging up. Hewitt says he spoke for three hours, covering a game that went into triple overtime.

• According to researcher Eric Zweig in the Toronto Star, Foster Hewitt routinely got some of the details of this first broadcast wrong, including the date of the game. The two teams in question didn't play each other on that date, and neither made the playoffs.

• Zweig believes the game Hewitt remembered actually took place five weeks earlier, between Kitchener and the Toronto Argonauts hockey team on Feb. 16, 1923. In 1985 Hewitt himself told the Globe and Mail that it might have been the Argonauts team, not Parkdale.

• Over the next few years, Hewitt broadcast other sporting events including football games, baseball, boxing, horse races and swim meets.

• The Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team was created in 1927, and Foster Hewitt was named the team's radio announcer. When Maple Leaf Gardens opened in 1931, Hewitt had exclusive broadcast rights to Leafs games. By 1933 he was heard on 20 Canadian stations from coast to coast.

• The 1942 Stanley Cup series that is excerpted in this clip took place between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings.

• The Leafs took the series four games to three, in one of the most improbable wins in sports history. The Red Wings won the first three games, but Toronto came back to win the next four.

• A comeback from a three-game deficit in a best-of-seven series has been accomplished just one other time in NHL history (by the 1975 New York Islanders over the Pittsburgh Penguins, in the Stanley Cup quarter-final round.) It has never happened in the NBA, and happened just once in Major League Baseball - the Boston Red Sox' 2004 American League Championship Series over the New York Yankees.


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