Wednesday, 13 July 2011

TBC: The Boys Of Saturday Night

For far longer than you or I have been around, there has been NHL hockey played. It has changed over the decades that it has been played, but along with hockey, there has also been another constant: the sounds of hockey on Saturday nights in Canada. While the NHL is examined on a daily basis, there has never been a thorough examination on HBIC of the people who bring the game to us so frequently and so well. Teebz's Book Club is proud to present The Boys of Saturday Night, written by Scott Young and published by McClelland & Stewart. In The Boys of Saturday Night, Mr. Young does a thorough examination of Hockey Night In Canada from its earliest radio days right through to the early-1990s when this book was published.

Scott Young was a Canadian sportswriter and journalist who wound up writing more than 45 books for readers throughout his career. Young was born in Cypress River, Manitoba on April 14, 1918, and was hired as a copyboy for the Winnipeg Free Press in 1936 before becoming a sports reporter. In 1940, he married Edna "Rassy" Ragland, the two had two sons: Bob Young, born in 1942, and Neil Young, in November of 1945. Young moved to Toronto shortly before World War II had started, and worked for a number of publications as a short-story writer and reporter, including the Globe & Mail on a number of occasions.

In 1988, Young received hockey's highest honour for a writer as he received the Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award from the Hockey Hall of Fame as selected by the Professional Hockey Writers' Association, and was also inducted into the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame. Young passed away on June 12, 2005 at the age of 87.

The Boys of Saturday Night is an absolutely fascinating examination about one of Canada's most historic weekly broadcasts. In the book, Mr. Young examines everything about HNIC, from when it was simply known as "General Motors Hockey Broadcast" over the radio in 1932, and all of the personalities that have appeared over the years that have brought the game to our ears and eyes as HNIC became what it is today.

There are extensive looks at some of the bigger personalities that became larger than life for their work with the hockey broadcasts, but Mr. Young brings to life the negotiations and the battles between the people and the businesses that went on behind the scenes of the world's premier hockey broadcast. For instance, were you aware that the Toronto Maple Leafs once had the power to demand that certain personalities not be used on their broadcasts if they had made a disparaging remark about the Leafs? Did you know that Stafford Smythe fought tooth-and-nail over the camera placement inside Maple Leaf Gardens before finally relenting to have the cameras placed where HNIC wanted them? More on this below.

Mr. Young also examines how the different advertisers were able to get their names on the HNIC broadcasts. If you were watching HNIC in the 1960s and 1970s, you know that Imperial Oil was THE sponsor for hockey broadcasts. However, because Imperial Oil was calling the shots for how their name and products were being advertised, they also received some liberties with product placement. Ever wonder why there are three stars chosen after every hockey game?

Thank Imperial Oil, aka Esso, for that honour. Imperial Oil wanted to promote their new "three star" gasoline - based on the three stars in their logo - in the 1930s, and began sponsoring this feature at the end of Foster Hewitt's radio broadcasts. With the three stars selected by Hewitt for their high-level of play, Imperial Oil was able to promote their newest product through the Imperial Oil Hockey Broadcasts.

Mr. Young has brought together a wide range of stories and information about Hockey Night In Canada's evolution into what it is today, and he doesn't miss out on some of the most controversial stories either. From the CBC losing television rights to CTV for the Summit Series to the controversial Dave Hodge firing, Mr. Young has all of these stories covered in The Boys of Saturday Night. Did you know that the first game broadcasted on TV through the CBC was a Montreal Canadiens game and not a Toronto Maple Leafs game?

"There were two oddities before the first puck was dropped for television in Maple Leaf Gardens. One was that Montreal managed to do its first televised game on October 11, three weeks before Toronto's debut on November 1. The reason, according to several Toronto accounts, is that Montreal's operation didn't have as many great brains arguing about camera placements, style of commentary and so on as Toronto. In Montreal they just did it. In Toronto, in addition to getting any ideas past the brain trusts at MacLaren and at Imperial, the producers had Smythe to deal with, which took a bit of time. In this case about three weeks longer than Montreal.

"The explanation for the second oddity went back to when Imperial first came in as sponsor in 1936. Over the ensuing years, Smythe had began to feel he'd made a bad business deal; he had been too undemanding for his own good."
Despite The Boys of Saturday Night being published twenty years ago, it still is very relevant today as a historical look at how the CBC, Ford, GM, and Imperial Oil got started in the HNIC telecasts and radio broadcasts. From a handshake on the golf course in 1929, MacLaren's advertising and the Toronto Maple Leafs brought Canada some of the most exciting sports broadcasts in the history of sports, and Mr. Young has captured the intracacies of the relationships of each of the parties involved in his 227-page examination. The stories are fascinating, and The Boys of Saturday Night certainly deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval. If you have a chance to pick this book up, I highly recommend adding it to your library due to the vast amount of information on the world's premiere hockey broadcast found within its covers!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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