The piece of music in question is more accurately called The Hockey Theme, especially now that it is no longer played on Hockey Night in Canada. In the spring of 2008, the agency representing composer Dolores Claman issued a statement saying that the composer was saddened by the CBC's decision to break off contract renegotiation talks. The CBC, faced with a public backlash, immediately responded, saying the agency had demanded more money than it was willing to pay. It had offered to buy the rights to the piece, which had been heard at the beginning of the network's hockey broadcasts for decades, outright — but were unable to do so.
Proving once and for all just how deeply imbedded the piece is in the Canadian psyche, the CBC was greeted by outrage. The corporation insisted it was not willing to pay more than a certain amount to continue playing the theme, as it is publicly funded and not willing to risk further controversy by dropping massive amounts of taxpayer money on a jingle, no matter how popular. Talks, CBC Sports representatives vowed, would continue.
In the meantime, CTV swooped in and offered to buy the rights to the theme in perpetuity. The agency accepted, and the red-faced CBC immediately announced plans for a contest designed to commission a new theme from Canadians. The issue dominated the news in Canada for nearly a week. It was weird.
In light of the fact that the original theme was no longer going to appear on the CBC's Hockey Night in Canada, both CTV and the agency representing Dolores Claman reminded people not to refer to it as the Hockey Night in Canada theme. The piece has been called The Hockey Theme the whole time, it turns out. Sheet music sales still remain high. As the controversy heated up, the CBC asked people to submit their memories of the theme and received some interesting responses, including more than a few people who had played it at their weddings or their parents' funerals.
Thousands of Canadians eventually did compose their own themes and uploaded them to the internet, where they were judged by viewers and narrowed down to a handful of finalists, who presented their themes on a TV miniseries. Music teacher Colin Oberst's composition, Canadian Gold, was selected as the winner. The runner-up was a 13-year-old musician.
The original theme can now be heard at the beginning of NHL broadcasts on The Sports Network, which is owned by the same parent company that owns CTV. CTV also plans to use it as the theme music to the hockey events at the 2010 Winter Olympics, to which it holds the broadcasting rights.
My suggestion that the contest be called off and the CBC use the Legend of Zelda theme instead went ignored. Pfft.