Saturday, January 07, 2006

It's Hockey Day in Canada

With impeccable timing, Hockey Day in Canada is back to warm the hearts of even the most casual of hockey fans.

The CBC has turned a novel little idea into a day long celebration of a game that defines a nation. Hockey Day in Canada returns to the Mother Network today, set on the shelf last year due to the NHL lockout, the CBC brings the celebration back in all its glory.

Hockey Day headquarters this year is Stephenville, Newfoundland the western Newfoundland town picks up the torch from Shaunavon, Saskatchewan which last hosted the conclave of all that is good about hockey back in January of 2004. Stephenville will make the perfect host for this years production, a town that has been hit by more than its fair share of bad economic news of late will band together to ensure the success of the day. The focus on the small Western Newfoundland city has already brought a measure of excitement to the place, the locals ready to put their best foot forward to showcase their hometown.

Hockey has always been a part of Newfoundland lore, back in the day the Newfoundland Senior league was THE LEAGUE in the province, the rivalry between the townies of St. John's, the Baymen of the Eastern coasts and the West Coasters has produced some legendary hockey over the years. And if the stars fall into place it may once again thrive as it once did. It's a rich hockey heritage that Newfoundlanders will bring to the show today, a love of hockey that matches any city or town in the land.

This years event features the usual trifecta of Canadian based hockey teams, with the Senators and Canadiens kick starting the celebrations at 2 pm EST, 11 am PST, the first of three NHL games featuring Canadian teams. The 7:00 pm EST 4 pm PST game brings the Maple Leafs and Oilers together, while the nightcap showcases the Canucks and Flames live from GM Place.

In between the CBC will transport us near and far across the nation, checking out minor hockey games in such locales as Florenceville, New Brusnwick, Parry Sound, Ontario, Winkler, Manitoba, Calgary, Alberta and Burnaby, BC. The focus as always will be on the young players, youth hockey and its volunteers and parents. It is effectively a thirteen and a half hour salute to those that give of their time for the love of a game.

Hot on the heels of Canada's Juniors celebration of a World Junior Hockey Championship, it should be a great celebration of a sport that has such special meaning to the nation. The broadcast will trace the path of many of today's hockey pros and how their formative years in minor hockey across the land, brought them to the level they are at today.

Hockey Day usually proves to be one of the most successful of projects put together by the CBC, an event that for one day anyways shows the public broadcasters true strengths in making a contribution to local communities across the land.

Such was the value of the day that last year when the CBC bailed on the project TSN stepped in and did a very admirable version of the celebration, all be it without the professional content. That in itself was testimony to the importance of the game to the national fabric.

The CBC however is the original producer and the folks there are more than happy to be back in the director's chair to bring the spectacular to televisions across the land. They created the franchise so to speak, it's been their story to tell over the years, each year creating memorable moments from such locations as Iqualuit, Nunavut, Windsor, Nova Scotia, Red Deer, Alberta and Toronto Ontario and of course Shaunovan last time.

Nobody lives hockey as much as Canadians do, Hockey Day is as close to a national holiday as the sport ever gets. Enjoy the festivities.

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