From the opening theme song to the post-game social media interaction, CBC is planning new ways to bring fans and viewers back to hockey and the 60th Season of Hockey Night in Canada.
CBC is hitting the ice with a triple header this Saturday, covering three separate games as the long-delayed NHL season gets underway.
With a new musical new rendition of ‘Hockey Tonight’ from Colin MacDonald of The Trews, some new on-screen animations and some familiar faces in new places throughout the broadcast, the iconic TV program will also make contact and connections with viewers across their smartphones, tablets and computers.
Launched for the season opener will be the new Hockey Night in Canada: 2nd Screen presented by Budweiser, for example, but other platforms will also be used to re-engage with what may be a disgruntled fan base.
“To coincide with the start of our 60th season, a milestone year for CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada, we’ve made exciting changes to our all-star cast of personalities who bring distinct points of view to the broadcast,” said Julie Bristow, Executive Director, Studio and Unscripted Programming, CBC, at a press event unveiling the CBC’s plans. “In addition to the broadcast team, we are launching: Hockey Night in Canada: 2nd Screen which creates the opportunity for viewers to interact with the game, our show and fans across the country."
She later told Broadcaster Magazine that, along with interactive microsites, second screen apps and online streams, even gaming platforms like the Xbox will be used to deliver content and engage fans (an app release is expected later in the season, making highlights and additional content available on the console).
“Wherever there is a conversation about hockey, we want to facilitate it; we want to be catalysts,” Bristow continued. “Yes, the TV broadcast is the biggest platform in terms of conventional viewer engagement, but it is not the only one. The number of Canadians who have another screen open, sitting on their lap or in their hand, is growing exponentially,” she described.
Using the 2nd Screen, for example, viewers can log-in during national broadcasts and interact with in-game features that reflect the live game action.
With a Facebook log-in, fans can also test their knowledge and try their luck at predicting team and player performances to earn points and prizes.
Despite some potential for backlash or even boycotts of the game by disgruntled fans, Bristow said the return of hockey is a “good news story. We are ready to go beyond the broadcast to engage with fans. Even without hockey, social media has kept the conversation about hockey very active, and we want to capture that energy and move the conversation forward
“Sponsors, too, will have the opportunity to use all available platforms,” she added, “as we all want to make connections with the fans.”
Sponsors this season include HNIC returnees ScotiaBank and General Motors/Chevrolet, as well as Budweiser, Kia, Hyundai, Subway, Home Hardware, Panasonic as HNIC HD sponsor, and more.
Of course, if the hockey itself is not enough of an attraction, there’s always rock and roll.
CBC will air an exclusive concert event on January 19 from outside the Bell Centre in Montreal featuring home-grown rock band Simple Plan and hosted by Daryn Jones and Rebecca Makonnen. Portions of the concert event will be broadcast during the pre-game Scotiabank Hockey Tonight.
Other concerts and special events are planned for the remainder of the season, too.
But the game is the thing, and broadcast TV host Ron MacLean said he’s eager for the 60th season to get underway; he’s one of many familiar faces and informed insiders on the HNIC team. Glenn Healy, P.J. Stock, Kevin Weekes, Elliotte Friedman will guide viewers from the pre-game to the final horn every Saturday night throughout the NHL season, as well.
MacLean, Friedman and others said the “fans are entitled” to their opinions about the reasons hockey has been cancelled for roughly half of this season. Fan anger or viewer backlash at its return may be an issue overall, but most expect a “pent-up demand” will bring big numbers back for the season openers.
“Our job is to go out and be passionate...honest, but passionate about the game,” Friedman explained of the media’s role on this particular stage. “We can’t go on the air and be down on the product for no good reason.
“In some ways, yes, we are the carnival barkers, there to bring the people in. But if someone told me ‘I’m never gonna watch again’, well, I’d tell them ‘I hope you’re gonna miss something good.”
Whether the hockey is good depends a great deal on the players themselves.
As Stock put it, “The players have to put on a show; they’ve can’t have any lulls in the game. You don’t want the fan dissatisfied with the game itself; they’re already dissatisfied with the lockout.”
New to the on-air team is Andi Petrillo at the Chevrolet iDesk; as such, she’s the first full-time female Hockey Night in Canada in-studio personality.
Even with the new broadcast team members, and returning cast, it was Healy who noted “lots of collateral damage” from the lockout that’s affected the team behind the scenes, and how tough it’s been on production crews, arena staff and more.
The in-game broadcast teams will have a slightly different look as well this season, with the duo of Jim Hughson and Craig Simpson calling the Prime East games while Rick Ball will call the play-by-play alongside analyst Kelly Hrudey for many of the Prime West games throughout the season.
CBC’s regional hockey broadcasts feature Bob Cole (play-by-play) and Garry Galley (analysis), and Dean Brown (play-by-play) and either Greg Millen or Galley (analysis) in the East while West games feature Mark Lee (play-by-play) and Millen (analysis). A host of experienced reporters join the regional teams each week, including Cassie Campbell-Pascall, Mitch Peacock, and Bruce Rainnie.
In addition, veteran hockey writer Tim Wharnsby keeps fans up-to-date with the latest news and analysis from around the league at CBCSports.ca.
The always candid Don Cherry returns to share his unique – and often controversial – thoughts on Coach’s Corner presented by Budweiser alongside MacLean during the first intermission of the Prime East game.
His role is expanded this year, with Cherry returning at the end of the first period of the Prime West game with additional thoughts and commentary.
Wrapping up the night each Saturday is After Hours with hosts Scott Oake and Hrudey as they welcome the NHL’s biggest names following the Prime West game. Fans will have the opportunity to interact with the hosts and their guests via Twitter.
Hockey Night in Canada Punjabi presented by Chevrolet returns for every Saturday night national double-header with veteran host Harnarayan Singh as he handles play-by-play duties alongside analysts Bhola Chauhan and Inderpreet Cumo. Every Saturday night national broadcast is covered, with live online streaming from CBCSports.ca and on TV through Bell Satellite TV channel 232, Bell Fibe TV 232, Rogers Digital TV channel 799, Shaw Digital TV channel 328 and TELUS Optik TV 131.
Hockey Night in Canada Radio on SiriusXM, the flagship show of NHL Network radio, airs daily, with HNIC team members and special guests discussing and debating the game of hockey in an opinionated, informed and entertaining way.
Fans can connect online at CBCSports.ca/HockeyNightInCanada, through Twitter (#HockeyNight), Facebook and Pinterest.
A special 60th season microsite (within CBCSports.ca) provides hockey fans with a way to relive 60 years of great moments and memories. Fans can also stay up-to-date with the Hockey Night in Canada app for iOS and Windows 8, and via Google Currents.