Sunday, June 08, 2008

They’re not playing our song anymore (or at least that’s the latest update)

It’s becoming a bit of a soap opera and one of the great debates of our time, but for perhaps the first time since Mr. Fessenden first talked into a radio, you have to feel a tad sorry for the CBC.

The National broadcaster is finding itself in the eye of a storm as the composer of the Hockey Night in Canada theme and her agent play a serious game of hardball with the Mother Corp.

Dolores Claman, who put together the now familiar ditty over forty years ago has rebuffed a reported CBC Bid of one million dollars to purchase the song outright and negotiations have now as they say broken off with little sign of any positive developments on the horizon.

In fact, the CBC is now pushing the idea of a National song contest, letting Canadians become the next Ms. Claman, (though we suspect with a tidy contract offer that ties up any outstanding rights for the next hundred years for the grand prize award of 100,000 dollars). We shudder at the prospect of a Canadian Idol type presentation on the CBC over the summer, as we seek out the next great hockey anthem composition in all imaginable forms.

The frequent updates on the on again but mostly off again discussions have taken on the kind of drama that the CAW occupation of GM’s headquarters has garnered, two sides with hardened positions and nothing but bad feelings with nowhere to channel their remaining energies.

When the CBC wasn’t trying to buy the song outright, they had offered to continue on with the current arrangement, which rewards the composer with 500 dollars every time the first dum de de dah dum, breaks out leading to another night of fast paced NHL action (unless of course you have the Leafs game on your television, where you would swear the music is more along the lines of dum, dum, da dum, da de dum de dum de dum)

Some say the CBC has lowballed the composer, others that her expectations of compensation are out to lunch. She’s a victim of corporate greed or an out of touch musician who has greatly overvalued a song that lasts all of thirty seconds. It all depends on when you join the debate.

Like every other Canadian issue, everybody has an opinion but nobody seems to have an answer on how to bring the two sides together for a sensible solution.

One worrisome thing now is that the politicians are reportedly ready to enter the controversy, never a good sign for a sensible or frugal solution. The Liberals are urging the Conservative government to push the CBC to come to terms quickly to protect the unique Canadian tradition. Surely there are more important matters of state to deal with than what song opens up a sporting event every Saturday night?

While the politicians contemplate their next move, Ms. Claman is suggesting that if the CBC doesn’t want her song then she’ll be more than happy to head off to the competition to belt out the opening notes. The only thing is, so far TSN and Sportsnet have been rather quiet on the whole situation and frankly it’s doubtful that they would be all that interested in the iconic anthem, as historic as it is.

It’s been identified with the CBC and Hockey Night in Canada for many years now, and has been the siren call for the nation to gather around the tube every Saturday night (and many more in the playoffs), but eventually everything is replaceable we suspect even the song that is considered the nation’s second national anthem.

Perhaps Ms. Claman might wish to keep in mind that many folks considered the Maple Leaf forever to be a better reflection of Canada’s national identity, but if you were to ask today I’m not sure that many would toss O Canada aside in favour of it.

If it’s all over for the Hockey Night in Canada theme, the suggested replacements have already been tossed out there, with Stompin’ Tom Connors always popular The Hockey Song also known as The Good Old hockey Game one of the leading preferences.

Ms. Claman’s representative might be advised to give the whole issue one more thinking over, it’s surely better to take a generous stipend per game for who knows how many more years, or grab that million dollar payout and head to the beach.
Otherwise the next stage of the melodrama might be that the composer’s negotiating team will be left with a quaint reminder of a TV jingle, that will soon be better known as the next question in an updated version of Trivial Pursuit.

CBC-- What are your special memories of the Hockey Night in Canada theme song
CBC-- Can Canada go on as we know it without the Hockey Night in Canada theme?
Globe and Mail-- The puck's stopped here for hockey theme
Globe and Mail-- CBC fumbles negotiations on Hockey Night theme
Globe and Mail-- A Jingle, not an anthem
National Post-- Canada could grieve over loss of hockey theme Further hockey theme talks possible: CBC
CBC-- Deal to keep Hockey Night theme song falls through
CBC-- Deal still possible for Hockey Night song
CBC-- Last play for Hockey Night in Canada theme song?
Winnipeg Sun-- Theme irreplaceable
Winnipeg Sun-- Hands off hockey song
Toronto Star-- Here's a toonie to keep our hockey hymn
Edmonton Sun-- 'I don’t want a new song'
The Calgary Herald-- HNIC: The song must go on
The Calgary Herald-- CBC, composer halt talks over 'anthem'
Halifax Chronicle Herald-- Use Don Cherry’s salary to pay for hockey theme
NPR-- Lights Out for 'Hockey Night' Theme Song?

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