TSN says it has no plans to give up rights to famed 'HNIC' theme

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TORONTO - NHL games may be moving to a new home on Canadians' television dials, but fans hoping to hear the "Hockey Night in Canada" theme song will have to revisit one of the old ones.

Sports TV channel TSN said Tuesday it has no plans to relinquish control of the iconic jingle, which it has been using to usher in its hockey broadcasts since acquiring the rights from CBC in 2008.

The current ownership arrangement means that the song will no longer be available coast to coast once a new broadcast rights agreement goes into effect next season.

On Tuesday, Rogers Communications (TSX:RCI.B) announced it had secured the national broadcasting rights for NHL games in a deal worth $5.2 billion. A sub-licensing agreement will allow CBC to continue airing "Hockey Night in Canada" on Saturdays and extends french language rights to TVA in Quebec.

The blockbuster deal leaves TSN out in the cold, but a brief statement from the network suggests it plans to hang onto one of its remaining hockey-related assets.

"TSN will continue to use 'The Hockey Theme' in our hockey broadcasts moving forward," spokesman Greg McIsaac said in an email.

According to TSN parent company Bell Media, the specialty sports TV channel would have 10 Leafs games next season under a regional agreement and that, starting in 2015, the network would air 26 regional Leafs games. TSN also has a deal for over 60 regional Jets matches through 2021.

When asked about the fate of the popular tune that opened hockey games across the country for decades, Rogers president Keith Pelley declined to speculate.

"I can't comment on the song because I know very little about it except that it's not part of this arrangement for obvious reasons," he said.

"The Hockey Theme" first aired in 1968, the year it was written by Vancouver-based composer Dolores Claman.

The punchy, staccato rhythms and catchy melody made it a classic with television audiences who heard it launch CBC NHL broadcasts for 40 years. But when the rights to the song expired in 2008, CBC wasn't able to reach a deal to renew them.

CBC balked at Claman's asking price of at least $2 million. The ultimate purchase price is still not known.

In the five years since it's been airing on national sports channels TSN and RDS, the jingle has been covered by such Canadian musical heavyweights as Rush drummer Neil Peart, the Barenaked Ladies and Simple Plan.

The song was also inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2010.

CBC held a nationwide contest inviting Canadians to pen a replacement for the song. The $100,000 prize was ultimately claimed by Alberta's Colin Oberst for his composition "Canadian Gold."

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version said TSN bought the rights to the Hockey Night in Canada theme song from CBC.



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