Friday, November 26, 2010

On The Air

In this world of instant communication, participation is often a click away.

The Montreal Canadiens have used modern technology to their advantage when it comes to reaching out to their fan base. At the beginning of the season, Montreal had 72,000 followers on Twitter, and 470,000 friends on Facebook.

Not willing to sit on their laurels, the Canadiens introduced another innovation for the 2010-11 season. Fans of the club are now able to select the three stars. Those who wish to vote can do so via a free a app for their cellphone, or can register their selection at the RDS website.

The three star selections have been a staple on Hockey Night In Canada since games were first broadcast on television during the 1952-53 schedule. The first telecast took place on November 1, 1952 with the Canadiens hosting the New York Rangers. On that same evening, English Canada witnessed the Leafs and Bruins playing at Maple Leaf Gardens.

A review of a partial script from a telecast on February 14, 1953 confirms that television wisely integrated the three star feature into their broadcast. A notation on page 14 of the script reads as follows...

Imperial Esso telecast
February 14, 1953...Page 14
(Dave pads for 10 seconds before
giving 3 stars, one at a time, in same
order as received from mobile truck)

The three stars were first introduced on radio when Imperial Oil took over sponsorship of the broadcast from General Motors. This occurred during the 1936-37 NHL season. The concept of selecting three stars was based on Imperials three major brands.
November 1936
 As shown above, the three star campaign was not limited to hockey. Ottawa's victory over the Toronto Argonauts is celebrated in this ad.

The new sponsor wasn't the only change made for the '36-37 season. New amplifiers and broadcast equipment were installed at Maple Leaf Gardens. The Gondola, from where Foster Hewitt broadcast, was divided into 2 sections by placing a panel down the middle. The first half being Hewitt's space to call the play by play. The second half was occupied by commentators and engineers. The purpose of this was to limit the amount of distractions  faced by Hewitt.

The Leafs first game was played at home against Detroit on Thursday November 5, 1936. Since this was a weekday, only listeners tuning into CKCL could hear the broadcast. Dick Mansell and Charles Jennings would handle the intermission duties.

The National or "Coast-to-Coast Canadian Network" would only carry the Saturday evening games. This included the powerful CFRB station in Toronto. The intermission host on the National Broadcast was Graham McNamee.

As for the Leafs, they didn't give much for Foster to work with. In the home opener they lost to Detroit 3-1. On the Coast-to-Coast contest Saturday evening, they fell to the New York Americans 3-2.

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