That Song

For what it’s worth, I think the theme song to CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada is one of the most perfect pieces of music there is. It’s up there with the theme to Doctor Who or James Bond.

So when I learned that the CBC couldn’t make a deal with the song’s composer to keep it, I was a little bit shocked. As a sports broadcast, HNIC is one of the things CBC has perfected and the song is a key component of that broadcast. So for the show to lose its signature song to a rival network is one of those things that frustrate me about the CBC. I’ll defend public broadcasting to the death but sometimes, CBC really doesn’t make it easy.

Radio 2 is going to add more contemporary music? Sure, I’m for that. Test the Nation? Sure, it’s fun. Little Mosque on the Prairie is never missed at our house, nor is Rick Mercer. The majority of the podcasts on my iPod are CBC as well.

But then they go and do things like taking their ratings and cash cow, and decide they’re going to futz with it, just because they can. The fact that they’ve announced a contest for aspiring composers to write the new theme makes me wonder if they had intended to let the current theme go all along.

Of course, to put this into perspective, it’s just a show and it’s just a song. It’s not our national identity and if it were, that would be kind of sad (besides, as a Canadian, I kind of prefer not to have one. National identities are nice and all but they can get kind of ugly). It doesn’t have any effect on the country and its people, other than marking the end of a broadcast era. The CBC could have dug in a little more to keep the thing but maybe the cost wasn’t justified. But it is a ditty designed to sell beer and power tools and retirement plans.

Personally, I would have kept the theme and dumped Don Cherry, but that’s just me.


7 thoughts on “That Song

  1. Um, you know, I teach an entire course called “Canadian Identity.” Therefore I must call you out on your comment on our lack of a national identity. Sorry, but I must.

    I like the song. I think it’s iconic. Will another song do as well? Probably. But it will be weird to hear it at the Olympics in 2010 when CTV covers that.

    Agree on the Don Cherry 110%. It’s sports math, see.

  2. I like the song as well, but to see it as some kind of keystone of our national identity is, I think, pushing it. It can stir memories and give you a nice feeling but Hell, the 1974 A&W Root Beer tuba jingle did that for me as well.

    I worry that we focus too much on pop cultural ephemera to define us. I like donuts as much as the next guy but it’s not a part of my identity as a Canadian.

    If we are to have an identity, I’d prefer that it’s something flexible enough to accomodate differing, often conflicting, ideas. When you say, “A Canadian is …” there is an assumption that there are people outside that definition and are therefore not Canadian. And that’s when things can become dangerous.

    Don’t get me wrong. I like being Canadian. On the whole, it’s not a bad nationality to be but I’m just a little wary of patriotism.

  3. You know, I thought we defined ourselves by pop culture, but then I started teaching this course – yes, kids say Tim Hortons and Hockey etc, but it’s the ideals and qualities they identify as being typically Canadian that are more interesting. We’ve had a lot of really interesting debates this term. And because it’s qualities and ideals, it’s far more inclusive. I think it helped that the class had a couple of EAL students, one of whom was a recent refugee: but in the main, the part of Canadian identity that my students identified most strongly was acceptance.

    People could learn a lot from my grade 9 kids. I’m just saying.

    Not that I’m proud of them or anything. 🙂

  4. 4 notes and no lyrics.
    Is that really a song?
    A tune maybe?

    It sure doesn’t pop into my mind when I am trying to
    define my Canadian identity. Neither does Tim Horton’s doughnuts and Don Cherry even less.
    Must not be a ”real” canadian.

  5. The great TSN rescue as they promoted it was a joke… it may not represent complete identity, but it is so entrenched in Canadian culture, and has been a staple of every Winter Saturday night since before I have a right to even talk to comment about this… you might even go as far as to call the theme an intrinsic part of Canadian art.


    Art being culture and all that…

    Maybe to be passive, dispassionate and apathetic is to be Canadian.

    Culture surely is something which is bred through ages, tradition and consistency, and maybe this theme IS Canada as we know it.

  6. I think my real disappointment is in the CBC for thinking the song was merely optional to its flagship sports broadcast.

    I think there is an upside to this. Growing up Canadian, you’re often told that your culture doesn’t matter. It’s substandard, publicly funded mediocrity that wouldn’t survive in an open market. The idea became so entrenched that I’d ask someone if they’ve seen TV Progamme X, and they’d reply simply, “No. It’s Canadian” as though that were the definitive marker of its quality.

    It’s an idea that’s frustrated me for years because it just isn’t true. So for the CTV to come along and buy the theme tune is not insignificant. Maybe they’re just sticking it to the CBC because they can but it also tells me that they see the value in this piece of music, that’s it’s worth paying top dollar to get it. I think that’s a healthy sign for our culture, even if the CBC, for all its claim to the mantle of protectors of Canadiana, was too dim to see it.

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