How They “Watched” in the Old Days…

The NHL playoffs are under way. A pretty great start for the Maple Leafs … but we’ll see.

Can’t get to the game? Don’t worry. There’s an app for that!

But before there were apps for your smartphone, streaming services on your laptop or tablet, and even before there was television and radio, there was the telegraph…

Winnipeg Victorias at Montreal Victorias. Manitoba Free Press, February 15, 1896
Montreal Victorias at Winnipeg Victorias. From the Montreal Star, December 28, 1896
Winnipeg Victorias at Montreal Shamrocks. From the Montreal Star, January 29, 1901.
Montreal AAA (Montreal HC) at Winnipeg Victorias. Montreal Star, March 13, 1902.
Rat Portage Thistles at Ottawa Hockey Club. Montreal Star, March 7, 1905.
Montreal Wanderers at Kenora Thistles. Montreal Star, March 20, 1907.
Edmonton Hockey Club at Ottawa Senators.
Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, January 15 and 18, 1910.
Edmonton Hockey Club at Ottawa Senators. Manitoba Free Press, January 18, 1910.
Ottawa Senators at Quebec Bulldogs. Ottawa Citizen, February 4, 1911.
Victoria Aristocrats at Toronto Blue Shirts. Montreal Star, March 13, 1914.

And then, something new starting in 1922. Those same telegraph bulletins are now being read out loud on the radio.

Vancouver Millionaires at Toronto St. Pats. From the Vancouver Province,
the Vancouver Sun, and the Vancouver World on March 28, 1922.
Ottawa Senators at Edmonton Eskimos in Vancouver.
Edmonton Journal, March 31, 1923.
Vancouver Maroons at Montreal Canadiens. From the Montreal Star and the Calgary Herald on March 17, 1924. (Reports on subsequent games between the Calgary Tigers and the Canadiens were also aired on the radio.)

By 1931, there was the first live coast-to-coast radio play-by-play broadcasts by Foster Hewitt of the Stanley Cup Final.

Chicago Black Hawks at Montreal Canadiens. Montreal Gazette, April 14, 1931
Reports on the nationwide broadcast in the
Winnipeg Tribune and the Vancouver Sun on April 14, 1931.

And, after the first Hockey Night in Canada television broadcasts in 1952–53 (and a French-only broadcast of a few games during the Stanley Cup Final in 1953), the Stanley Cup Final was on TV in English for the first time in 1954 … joined in progress, but better than nothing!

Detroit Red Wings at Montreal Canadiens, from the Ottawa Journal on April 13, 1954.

11 thoughts on “How They “Watched” in the Old Days…

  1. Ted Reeve, a broadcaster, on one of the Toronto radio stations, would “call” baseball games by reading them off the teletype, with breathless enthusiasm. Most listeners thought he was at the game itself. Sort of the Foster Hewitt for triple A Maple Leaf baseball.
    Now with play-by-play colour TV and colour commentary as the game progresses and between periods and 590 Fan pre- and post-game analysis (and bar room drivel too) a sports fan who isn’t wealthy can still enjoy. Or even when it’s below zero and a blizzard, watch NBA or NHL outside the arena on a large screen with others. Fan comes from the word “fanatic” which explains the shouting crowd weathering the weather watching the ups and downs on a huge screen in inclement weather.
    Yes 5-0 is a great start. But we were up on the lowly Canadiens three games to zip last year. No parade!
    Bob Cole may regret retirement or it may be the year MLSE fires everyone on the Leaf staff including the overpriced hot dog vendors!
    Go Leafs Go!

  2. A magnificent collection of clippings. Where I grew up in Brooklyn, on Sunday late afternoons, the Brooklyn Citizen newspaper would have a giant blackboard with scores chalked in as the games progressed in both leagues. When the Dodgers were on the road, crowds filled the sidewalk around the blackboard. Eric, as Bob Hope and Shirley Ross warbled, “Thanks For The Memories.” (Ask Mom if she remembers the duet.)

  3. Good post Eric. Very enjoyable.

    In Owen Sound, the fans used to crowd around the front door of the Sun Times newspaper office waiting for up to minute details on the Memorial Cup championship games in 1924 and 1927. When the final score was announced a massive street party ensued even though it was often past midnight.
    As well, fans on the Toronto to Owen Sound train had the conductor stop at each station along the route to get telegraphed updates for the games.
    Things have certainly changed.

  4. The crowds waiting around in great number for the teletype message are somewhat akin to the fanatics that stand outside of the arena now and watch on outdoor billboards/screens. Some people love to be part of a crowd…I don’t fully understand, but each to their own.

  5. Certainly technology has changed so much of our lives. And when it works well, it’s great. But it can also be frustrating. Thanks for the interesting clippings.

  6. Very nice, Eric! Certainly brings back ‘memories’. However, my ‘memories’ are mostly memories of hearing or reading about many of the things you’ve brought back to mind here, EXCEPT for the first HNIC telecast on October 11th, 1952, when I was six years old, and my dad took me two streets over to his best friend’s house in Crawford Park, Verdun, Quebec to watch the game as we didn’t have a TV yet. His best friend? Buddy O’Connor!
    And, as Stan Fischler so aptly imparted, “Thanks For The Memories.”

  7. Hi Eric,
    Your clippings inspired me to do a little digging into the history of TV Hockey Broadcasts in Flin Flon, Manitoba. I grew up there, and have vague memories of the Hockey Night in Canada broadcasts being a week late, because the game tapes had been shipped up from Winnipeg on the bus. I was starting to wonder if this was true or a sign of a fading memory.
    Anyway, here is the proof from the “History of Canadian Broadcasting.” Game tapes were shipped up to the north until 1968 when the following happened.

    On October 18, CBWBT Flin Flon, The Pas and Fisher Branch was authorized to receive live network service rather than off-the-air programming from CBWT.
    A great day for hockey fans!!
    Rod Nystrom

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