ABSTRACT

This chapter examines the role of Canada’s public broadcaster-the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) in English and la Société Radio-Canada in French-in providing free-to-air telecasts of sport, most notably National Hockey League (NHL) games. We begin by outlining the pioneering role played by the CBC and Radio-Canada in establishing shows like Hockey Night in Canada (HNIC) and La soirée du hockey as ubiquitous elements of Canadian popular culture and longstanding cultural traditions for Anglophones and Francophones alike. In the early days of television, these weekly Saturday night hockey telecasts were not only the most popular programs across the country, but they also helped fulfi ll the public broadcaster’s mandate of nation building. This was an era, as the historian Paul Rutherford (1990, p. 45) has noted, when the CBC and Radio-Canada enjoyed a monopoly position as a national service, and when television was ambitiously designed as a public service to “please as wide a spectrum as possible of Canadian people, whether they lived in Toronto or Rivière-du-Loup, with programming that would refl ect and enrich the soul of the country.”