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Hockey Night In Canada As Iconic As The Song: My Talk With CBC's Jeff Keay

Hockey Night In Canada recently capped off a tumultuous season when its viewers chose a new anthem to replace the show’s dearly departed old song.  I spoke with Jeff Keay, the CBC’s Head of Media Relations, English Services about the CBC’s Anthem Challenge and if they’re satisfied with the results.

Which is more iconic-Hockey Night In Canada or its beloved former theme song?

Jeff Keay believes it’s the show that’s stronger than its parts. Perhaps that’s why the CBC‘s Anthem Challenge-and the winning tune it produced-garnered so much attention from coast to coast.

“The old song’s value,”-that’s what he calls the former anthem throughout the interview-“came from association with the product-Hockey Night In Canada.  I think the new song is going to build its affinity.  Hockey Night In Canada is one of the strongest sports shows in the world.  The song’s association will grow.”

How did the CBC come up with the idea for the Anthem Challenge?  “Life hands you a lemon, you make lemonade,” says Keay.

(I’d like to think he got that from my posts, but I digress)

“As unfortunate as it was, (losing the original theme), we had to move on.”

He credits CBC Sports’ Executive Director Scott Moore for coming up with the idea of a new theme.  “Then we decided to involve the whole country in a contest-not just to write the new theme, but to choose it as well.”

The response-15,000 submissions-was beyond what the CBC had hoped for.  Keay says that from a public relations standpoint,  the Anthem Challenge was a massive success.

“We had tons of coverage-we probably got more publicity than any other story that year.  And Canadians were not just paying attention, they were obeying the call-to-action,” he says, noting that the server was sometimes overloaded by online voting.

Once hockey fans chose “Canadian Gold” by Beaumont, Alberta’s Colin Oberst,  Keay says “The whole thing turned out ten times better than we imagined.”

As for the fact that the original, now renamed The Hockey Song, is still on the air on CTV’s TSN?  Keay points out that most Canadians still refer to it as the Hockey Night In Canada theme song.

“Some people can buy an identity.  We create ours.”