Foster Hewitt's unique voice called Paul Henderson's winner in Game 8 of the 1972 Summit Series, among many other memorable ones. (THN Archives)
There are moments in hockey that just stick with you, whether it’s a Cup-clinching goal, a glass-shattering bodycheck, a magical glove save or any other happening that holds a special place in your heart, for whatever reason. These moments stand alone in their importance – whether it’s regionally, nationally, internationally or personally – and are etched into the history books.
There are those memorable moments…and then there are the emotional ones.
A special part of hockey’s culture and being originates from high in the rafters, looking down on the ice from the gondola. Accompanied by a great play call entangled in excitement and exuberance, these moments develop a symphonic tone that rings through our thoughts and carries over generations to take on a nostalgic pitch.
To me, a good play-by-play announcer doesn’t have to explain who has the puck every time a new player touches it – I can watch the game with my own eyes. I also won’t get annoyed if the announcer mispronounces a name or incorrectly identifies a player every now and again – I can see who it is.
To me, a good play-by-play announcer expresses the momentum of the game and captures the feeling and atmosphere of the fans in the building. After all, the game is defined by emotion, so it should be produced the same way.
“This is incredible. The Soviet Army team is going back to the locker room. They are leaving! They are walking out!”
“And they’re taking their sticks with them!”
The Philadelphia Flyer fans were their usual hostile selves in 1976 when Philly hosted the Red Army team, with signs reading “Tell it to the Czar” and “Chickens” sprouting up from the seats. But when the Russians left the ice over a non-call on Valeri Kharlamov, fans in the building were both disgusted at the display and surprised by the fact the Russians were actually leaving, something conveyed by the announcers.
There are so many all-time great calls to choose from: Doug Gilmour’s urgent behind-the-net spin-o-rama in Game 1 of the 1993 Norris Division final; the unfathomable miracle on ice at Lake Placid in 1980; Joe Sakic’s clutch, clinching goal in the 2002 gold medal game, to name a few. The list goes on and on.
Whether your favorite announcer is a current one such as Rick Jeanneret, Randy Moller, Chris Cuthbert or Gord Miller, or a historical great like Danny Gallivan, Bob Cole or Foster Hewitt, there are all sorts of different calls and sounds for all sorts of different tastes.
Thinking back to your favorite calls of all-time, there will be some that just make you think: “that was an awesome goal.” There will be ones where you can recite the announcer’s call word-for-word because it was expressed so well.
And then there are the ones that also give you goosebumps, make you feel proud and, perhaps, give you a lump in your throat every time you hear it…even if you weren’t around when it was done live.
In my mind, the best call ever made in hockey is a no-doubter.
In only a few words – uttered by Hewitt after the goal-scorer fell, got right back up and netted the game (and series)-winner – it described the biggest goal of a hockey country’s history and also expressed the spirit and heart of the game, a.k.a., determination in the face of adversity:
“Here’s a shot…Henderson made a wild stab for it and fell. Here’s another shot, right in front, they score! Heeenderson!”
There’s simply nothing better.
What’s your all-time favorite call?
Rory Boylen is TheHockeyNews.com's web content specialist and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appear regularly in the off-season.
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