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Alternatively titled: Illegal Curve’s First Look at the HNIC Theme Song Contest

Earlier this summer, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (‘CBC’) announced that they would not be renewing their rights to theme song for the network’s Hockey Night in Canada (‘HNIC’) broadcasts. The announcement sent shockwaves throughout the hockey world, and was even the subject of ridicule on an episode of Colbert Report (which thus allowed Comedy Central to overtake ESPN in the extent of its yearly coverage of the NHL). Following the relinquishment of rights by the CBC, Canada’s other major sports network, The Sports Network (‘TSN’), swept in like a self-styled white knight and rescued the song from extinction by purchasing the rights from the license-holder.  TSN plans to incorporate the song into its NHL coverage.

 CBC meanwhile, is without a theme song for HNIC. It would be an understatement to say the original song had become a core component of the hockey production, right up there with Ron MacLean’s eyebrows, Don Cherry’s suits, and Steve Armitage’s boyish good looks.  Which is all to say that, whatever song the network ultimately decides to use to open its broadcast, such a song will have very big skates to fill.

 In order to fill these skates, the network decided to run an online contest to find the next theme song. Thus far, over 3500 fans and wannabe composers from across the country have submitted their entries, all of which can be viewed online at  The contest runs through August 31st, and the voting period will begin on October 4th. 

 And while, just like Gary Bettman and the NHL in the Nashville Predators ownership debacle, we at Illegal Curve haven’t done our full due diligence and examined all 3,500 + entries, the random sampling we have done has, we believe, put us in a position to call attention to the following submissions (all of which can be searched by composer or song name on the Anthem Challenge website):

 The Best Combination of Artist Name + Song Quality Award:

“Hockey Sweater” by Anders Nerman (Vancouver)

Take a songwriter who was named after a hockey player (Swedish superstar and former WHA Winnipeg Jets standout Anders Hedberg), and combine it with a song title named after the best children’s hockey story in history (Roch Carrier’s Hockey Sweater) and you start to think that the odds you might have a good theme song on your hands are pretty high. And you’d be right.

 Hockey Sweater can best be described as HNIC Goes Punk.  Nerman’s take on the theme incorporates an opening with organ-like sounds evocative of the original theme, but then progresses into a high-tempo, upbeat guitar segment with catchy punk-like vocals in the background. Unlike many other entries, Hockey Sweater carries us through a solid minute without petering off. As a result, with apologies to Siskel and Ebert, we’re giving this one Two Sticks Up (wooden, not Synergy, so as not to offend Pierre Maguire).

The 2007-2008 Ottawa Senators Memorial Prize (for the song with the hottest opening that then cools off way too fast)

“Breakaway Rock” by Rob Mazeruk (Winnipeg)

 This entry starts off with a great, up-tempo, guitar opener that would get any viewer in the mood for the exciting Saturday night action to follow (unless we’re talking about a broadcast of a Maple Leafs game, in which case no one should be getting excited unless they’re a fan of the team lucky enough to be playing against the Leafs that night).

 Unfortunately, unlike Bob Dole and Mike Ditka post-medication, this song really only goes hard and fast for about 30 seconds. That said, it would be simple for the song to be extended a little longer and this entry is definitely worthy of significant consideration.

The Jeff Finger Award (For the song that was paid a lot (of views) for questionable reasons):

“Hockey Scores” by Logan Aube (Aurora)

 According to the anthem challenge web site, this entry has received more views than any other entry. I’m not sure why. While Aube certainly has some skills, the theme begins with what sounds like a crying baby, and proceeds into a segment that to my musically untrained ear sounds a lot like gunshots! I’d be surprised if this song wins it all, but stranger things have happened (see RJ Umberger’s 2008 playoff stats).

And Finally…The Nik Lidstrom Award for All-Around Consistency

Hockey Night Forever” by Michael Kulas (Toronto)

Like Nerman’s “Hockey Sweater”, Kulas’ entry shares a similar horn-based opening leading into an upbeat, punk-like guitar segment. The tempo carries through the entire minute-long submission, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it, like any team quarterbacked by Lidstrom, carried through to the late rounds of the contest.


That’s all for now – I’ll do another review of the entries when the voting begins. And if anyone out there is interested in submitting an Illegal Curve theme song, please do so! First prize: A Buy One Get One Free voucher for a Carolina Hurricane’s home game, courtesy of Illegal Curve’s Drew Mindell.


For Pitchfork, I mean Illegal Curve, I’m Steve Werier