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90 years ago today, hockey play-by-play was born in Toronto

February 8, 2013

Foster Hewitt
Photo Credit: Toronto Star
It’s a play-by-play broadcaster's name unknown to almost everyone, and an anniversary mostly lost to the sands of time. But 90 years ago tonight, the art of hockey play-by-play was born. In a game in Toronto, with few spectators looking on, the first call of game action came to those with radios across Ontario. The beginnings, as you might imagine, bore very little resemblance to the radio and TV broadcasts of today. But the idea is the same as it is now, to bring the game to those who can’t be there to experience it firsthand. For hockey fans everywhere, the moment was a significant one, as it brought the game closer to those who feel the passion for it. 

The medium of radio was still in its infancy in the early 1920’s, and sports on radio even more so. Two years earlier, KDKA in Pittsburgh became the first radio station to broadcast a baseball game live to listeners, as the Pirates defeated the Philadelphia Phillies. But on February 8, 1923, radio station CFCA in Toronto would bring the action of the North Toronto Hockey Club and Midland to the masses. The Ontario Hockey Association match, with less than 3,000 people in the stands, became the first game ever broadcast on radio. 

The first play-by-play announcer 90 years ago was a man named Norman Albert. He didn’t stick around very long, as you’ll read here, as he was replaced by a young Hall-of-Famer to be in Foster Hewitt. But he was the first, and he paved the way for all of us that came after.

I really enjoyed this link in today’s Toronto Star, written by Eric Zweig. We’ve come a long way since a small radio studio, a small glass booth and a game in the Ontario Hockey Association. 

Here’s to both Norman Albert and Foster Hewitt for their contributions to the greatest game on earth today, and a sincere thank you for helping grow the game. I hope you’ll read Eric’s article here, on the birthday of hockey play-by-play. 

Click here to read Eric Zweig's story on the first-ever play-by-play broadcast 90 years ago today.