When it comes to celebrating Canada’s favorite pastime, a day is hardly enough time.
Last week, CBC Sports’ Hockey Night in Canada franchise traveled to Prince Edward Island to broadcast several days of hockey-themed coverage from makeshift backyard rinks to concert halls to gleaming professional arenas. On Saturday Feb. 11, Canada’s seven NHL clubs took center ice for the 12th edition of Scotiabank Hockey Day in Canada.
For the first time, CBC Sports crossed the Confederation Bridge to host Hockey Day in Canada from the country’s smallest province. Prince Edward Island, roughly the size of Delaware, boasts a rich hockey tradition and more hockey rinks per capita than any other province in Canada.
“It has really become a national holiday and a key date on the schedule for us,” says Joel Darling, director of production, CBC Sports. “Through the years, what we’ve found that really works … is when [Hockey Day in Canada] comes from a smaller town [in] Canada. The seven Canadian teams all play in large markets, so this is a chance for us to take a bit of Hockey Night in Canada, a bit of CBC, a bit of the NHL out to some small towns across the country.”
Hockey Day in Canada drew an audience of more than 11.4 million Canadians, or approximately 34% of the population.
A Cross-Country Feat
Beginning at noon on Saturday, longtime Hockey Night in Canada personalities Ron MacLean and Don Cherry hosted the Hockey Day in Canada festivities from a specially built outdoor rink in Summerside, PE.
Summerside served as CBC Sports’ host location for the day’s broadcast, with the network operating out of an HD mobile unit with 10 cameras.
The NHL action got under way at 2 p.m. ET, as fans in Ontario, Quebec, and Alberta watched the Ottawa Senators host the Edmonton Oilers, and the rest of Canada saw the Winnipeg Jets take on the Pittsburgh Penguins. After a live remote edition of Scotiabank Hockey Tonight, CBC Sports nationally broadcast the Montreal Canadiens at the Toronto Maple Leafs at 7 p.m., followed by the Vancouver Canucks at the Calgary Flames at 10 p.m.
CBC established satellite locations throughout the country to capture community events organized in conjunction with Hockey Day in Canada, including junior hockey games, alumni events, and equipment drives. The network dispatched remote complements comprising an uplink truck, camera, and talent to Charlottetown, PE; Windsor, NS; Verdun, QC; Thunder Bay, ON; Winnipeg, MB; Prince Albert, SK; and Richmond, BC.
Although CBC Sports’ headquarters in Toronto took control of the NHL broadcasts in-game, Darling estimates that approximately 90% of the day’s broadcast was controlled by the remote crew in Summerside. With a crew of 40-50 staffed for the four NHL games, five or six dispatched to the satellite locations, and 50 people stationed throughout Prince Edward Island, between 250 and 275 people spanning the country (and Pittsburgh) worked on Hockey Day in Canada.
“It’s an exhausting show for everybody,” says Darling. “It’s not often you do a 12- to 13-hour broadcast outside the Olympics. But — what amazes me here — is there are so many great stories connected to the game of hockey because it’s such a part of the fabric of the country.”
CBCSports.ca/hockeyday provided live and on-demand streaming of Hockey Day in Canada, including coverage from the satellite locations and all four NHL matchups.
Not Just the NHL
Prince Edward Island hosted a week of events leading up to Hockey Day in Canada, during which time the Stanley Cup traveled to schools, community centers, and hospitals throughout the province.
On Thursday Feb. 9, MacLean hosted a hockey-themed concert from the Confederation Centre for the Arts in Charlottetown. The concert, Stolen From a Hockey Card, featured Canadian artists performing original hockey songs and was streamed live on CBCSports.ca. A performance of The Dressing Room at the Harbourfront Jubilee Theatre and a banquet rounded out the lead-up to Saturday’s festivities.
Throughout Saturday, several junior hockey games took place in both Summerside and Charlottetown, including a matchup between St. Thomas and the University of Prince Edward Island from Summerside, an afternoon Quebec Men’s Junior Hockey League contest featuring St. John vs. P.E.I. in Charlottetown, and a Mississauga Hockey League game between Miramichi and Summerside.
“I often wonder if were going be hockey’d out by this, but, boy, what a turnout,” said Darling. “Even on Saturday, when they had 25 inches of snow on Saturday night in Summerside, the [rink] was filled to the rafters.”