Saturday, June 07, 2008

Northern sensibility

US politics are heating up, and will only get hotter in the months ahead. Canada, meanwhile, is apparently getting worked up over something very different: The CBC has announced that it will be dropping the “Hockey Night in Canada” theme music in a licensing dispute with the composer’s agents.

I freely admit that like a lot of Americans—and probably nearly all Kiwis—I don’t get the attraction of ice hockey. Never watched a game, never cared who was winning and who wasn’t. But I do understand the appeal of cultural icons, as this theme music apparently is. “Canada’s second national anthem,” the media called it.

There are many versions of the music on YouTube, but I have no idea which one is correct (so, no link). I noticed on one of these videos an American commented, “Canadians need to get a life...anyone who is that obsessed with sport is an idiot.” To that, a young Canadian wisely countered, “Better wasted on sport than religion.” Touché.

This may seem at first glance to be as fluffy as some of the US media’s obsession with “celebrities”, but this is different: It seems that at least some Canadians feel passionately about this. Contrast that with their southern neighbours’ obsession with the divisiveness of politics and, as the young Canadian noted, politics of religion.

So I just kept thinking, how great is it for the news coming out of a country and into the world being about some theme music instead of—well, just about any of the news coming out of the US these days. At the very least, it was nice to be distracted from US politics for a little while.


Anonymous said...

Ah, alright, I'll bite. ;-)

So far the CBC has only said that they are prepared to drop the HNIC theme due to what they consider selfish royalties from its composer, so I think it's more of a negotiation tactic than a real threat.

Still, the very suggestion of replacing the theme has got a lot of people riled up. It probably looks pretty silly to an outsider, but people are very, very passionate about hockey. It's considered part of our cultural identity, and even though I don't personally follow the sport (I really ought to watch where I say that), I'd hate to see the song replaced. It's a childhood memory for many people.

(Though I remember thinking, as a kid, that it sounded an awful lot like the He-Man theme...)

Anonymous said...

By the way, I'd call this version the definitive Hockey Night in Canada theme. It starts around the 50 second mark.

(They've made some minor changes to the instrumental arrangment over the years, but the theme itself has stayed pretty much the same.)

d said...

I *love* ice hockey! Mainly for the fights, though. ;) I saw a great game back when I lived in Pittsburgh - Penguins vs. Philly. Fabulous.

Arthur Schenck said...

Mark: That's just it--it doesn't sound at all silly to me. As far as I know, every country can go through this if they feel a cultural touchstone is being torn away. Okay, I admit this sounded kinda "cute" to me, to get riled up about the theme music to TV coverage of sport--and ice hockey, no less--but it's something I can well identify with.

Dawn: Heheheh, that reminds me of the old joke: "I went to the fights and an ice hockey game broke out". Never been to a game, but I had a friend who loved to go to watch the Chicago Blackhawks. That's as close as I get...

toujoursdan said...

Thanks for the comments on Joe's blog. I lived in NZ from 1991-1993 (Hackett Street in St Mary's Bay, Auckland). I would have stayed longer but my visa ended. I am a bit jealous!

I think you hit the nail on the head. The CBC is the public TV broadcaster and has a mandate for Canadian programming.

According to the news, a rival network with deeper pockets - CTV - acquired the rights to the song, so it will live on, but it's sad to see it pass from our public broadcaster to one that makes all its money re-broadcasting U.S. programming.