Over the last several years, one of the most anticipated aspects of watching CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada has been the opening montage. Each week, the short video sequence splices dramatic hockey scenes from the participating teams and players, and embeds them in an emotional soundtrack that sets the tone for the ensuing matchup. This past Saturday, prior to the age old Toronto v. Montreal battle, HNIC created its magnum opus. For those that have not seen the opening (it is hard to believe this could be possible, given the praise the piece received on social media since it aired on Saturday night), this is a must watch:
The video was set to Luciano Pavarotti’s “Nessun Dorma,” and provided a haunting tribute to the participants of the two teams, which CBC has long dubbed as the Forever Rivals. For many Canadians, the voices of Foster Hewitt and Bob Cole served as the narrators for our Saturday evenings, when hockey was pure and vivid, and in the piece, they help set the stage for the emotional jaunt that follows. The three minute long masterpiece provided a thrilling joy ride through the history of both the Maple Leafs and Canadiens, and interposed multiple scenes to show how gripping and impactful these confrontations have been to the audience, both in the past and today, and to people of all ages. Hockey means something to everyone, and the expressions of passion, rage and jubilation from the gathered crowds highlight just that. Indeed, images of children from today and years gone by are mixed in with the fined clothed spectators of hockey’s golden age, and serve to remind us that hockey is the most succinct aspect of Canadian life that unites us, regardless of age or generation. The piece brought us back to our childhood, where we spent many cold, wintery Saturday nights, huddled around the television with those that we loved, watching those mythical combatants overcome pain and fatigue to represent us. The pure emotion of the sport is captured through the great focus placed on the eyes of the players, coaches and fans. The alternating contrast of the legends of yesteryear in action with today’s players help demonstrate that the Maple Leafs and Canadiens continue to be institutions in this country, and are handed down from generation to generation, leaving the same, deep impact on the fans of both teams.
Of course, we must give credit to the creator of such an incredible experience. The man behind the montages is Toronto filmmaker, Tim Thompson, who is featured nicely in this piece by the National Post last Spring. In capturing the indelible images of the game, carefully placing these moments within a perfectly selected soundtrack, and contrasting them with our (the fans) reactions, Thompson seems to elevate the game beyond the confines of the cold rinks, stats pages and sports bars. Personally, I feel that he is a master at finding the art within sport, and has the incredible talent to compose pieces that resonate for weeks (and even years) and which inspire us within our own lives. Over the years, many of Thompson’s pieces have long lingered in my mind, and have helped enhance my love and passion for the sport.
Probably my favourite Thompson piece over the years was for Game 1 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals, between Pittsburgh and Detroit. Set to Coldplay’s “The Scientist,” it is a beautiful piece, that shows how the teams got back to meeting each other for the Stanley Cup, after meeting one year earlier.
After the Penguins won the Cup in 2009, the montage that aired was also quite emotional. It featured another haunting song in City and Colour’s, “Sleeping Sickness” and was the perfect compilation of what took place that Spring.
During the 2010 playoffs, the Montreal Canadiens took us on a thrill ride, and Thompson did an incredible job capturing what the team meant for the city and it’s fans over the years. This is just one example that demonstrated this.
Here are a couple of others that I have enjoyed:
With this past week’s news that the media landscape of hockey will change in the coming years, after the announcement that Rogers has purchased the rights to air the NHL, one can hope that Tim Thompson and his contributions to Hockey Night in Canada remains, and continues to be celebrated. He remains a genius that is able to find the passion and emotion that many fans of hockey have had since the first time they watched the game.
– Jaideep Kanungo, Hockeyland Canada