The Boys of Saturday Night: Inside Hockey Night in Canada

Description

272 pages
$24.95
ISBN 0-7715-9105-5
DDC 070.4'49796962'0971

Author

Publisher

Year

1990

Contributor

Julie Rekai Rickerd is a Toronto broadcaster and public relations
consultant.

Review

Young’s well-deserved reputation as an excellent hockey writer does
not translate well into this book. To be fair, the behind-the-scenes
conception and execution of the radio and television broadcasts of
hockey games in Canada is not in itself an enthralling topic, but Young
makes it seem duller than necessary. The writing here is dry, humorless,
and without emotion, as though the writer himself is less than
interested in his subject matter. The tale begins interestingly enough,
in 1929, when a deal was struck between Jack MacLaren, head of MacLaren
Advertising and Conn Smythe, founder of the Maple Leafs and Maple Leaf
Gardens, to broadcast hockey games on radio. The deal consisted of a
handshake on the golf course and the promise of $100 a broadcast, a
paltry sum compared to the multimillion-dollar business “Hockey Night
in Canada” has become. It is also amusing to follow the backstage
calamities of the early broadcasts in radio, and later, in television.
There is a great element of nostalgia in reading the old, familiar names
of Foster and Bill Hewitt, Ward Cornell, Murray Westgate, Red Storey,
Jack Dennett, and Rocket Richard—all “stars” in their own
right—as well as in seeing the hockey household names of the present,
such as Al Eagleson, Don Cherry, Dave Hodge, Harry Neale, Dick Irvin,
and Bob Cole. The names of people like Hugh Horler, Ted Hough, and Bud
Turner (of MacLaren Advertising), as well as George Retzlaff, Ralph
Mellanby, Bob Gordon, and Ron Harrison (the men behind the scenes of
“Hockey Night in Canada”) may be new to the reader, but it is they
who made it possible for the “stars” to have a forum in which to
shine. The actual transition from radio to television is made to seem
quite easy compared to the changes in sponsorship (from General Motors
to Imperial Oil to Ford to Molson).

Despite the title, Young never truly gets inside “Hockey Night in
Canada.” His protagonists lack flesh and bones; they lack dimension.
Only in directly quoted anecdotes does the book show sparkle.

Since “Hockey Night in Canada” is “a ritual as Canadian as maple
syrup and English-French rivalry,” a 60-year-old institution, its
history should be told in a more enthusiastic manner. This version fails
to satisfy either the nostalgia of the old or the curiosity of the
young.

Citation

Young, Scott., “The Boys of Saturday Night: Inside Hockey Night in Canada,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 23, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/10760.