FOSTER HEWITT

You don’t have to be a hockey fan to know the name of Foster Hewitt.
Recognized around the world as " The Voice of Hockey" Foster has been part of Canada’s sporting life since the early Twenties. He began on a telephone telling a Toronto radio station what was going on in a hockey game between the home-town team and one in Kitchener, Ontario. And for more than 3000 broadcasts after on radio and television - it has been one "He Shoots He Scores!" after another. 
Depending on the person you are talking to, Canadian hockey is one or all of the following: a shaper of youth, an international banner, a religion, a unifying force. But one fact is perfectly clear; the Saturday night hockey broadcast has always been a good deal more than light entertainment. 
One man has reported it all- his name is Foster Hewitt. And he has helped millions of us to see and share these events. 
Foster was 14 years old in the press box with his father for the 1918 World Series. He sat behind the microphone for the world’s first hockey broadcast in 1923. He was the Master of Ceremonies when Maple Leaf Gardens opened in 1931. He was Mr. " Hockey Night In Canada" through the Depression and through World War ll. Hewitt traveled to Europe for some of Canada’s finest hours of international competition. 
For many who grew up on farms in the Prairies, remote fishing outposts or anywhere there was a radio, Foster Hewitt symbolized Canadian life and memories of childhood. Pretty big shoes for a small and basically shy and simple man. 
"My Father was my whole life"…..From the age of five, young Foster was a constant companion with his father W.A Hewitt, at football and baseball and hockey events. Mingling with an assortment of scullers, yachtsmen, lacrosse players and baseball stars, the youngster was a familiar sight in press boxes across Canada and the United States. 
Foster would have loved to be able to play hockey but, "I couldn’t skate very well .I had weak ankles."…Instead he turned to boxing. By the time he would enter University of Toronto, he had earned an enviable reputation in the boxing community. As far as a career choice he was fascinated with radio. The first live radio broadcast of a major event was on July 21, 1921, when heavyweight Jack Dempsey entered the ring against George Carpentier. This radio broadcast was carried into 200 theatres and halls along the Atlantic coast. 
Foster got himself a job at the Toronto Star where his dad was the Sports Editor. He knew they were thinking of moving into radio. When the Toronto Star opened its own radio station CFCA in June 1922 Foster was on staff as announcer/engineer. 
Hewitt began this career with news bulletins which he read from page one of the Star. There was no formal programming, he just went on whenever there was something interesting to report. 
Foster Hewitt was behind the microphone for the game of March 22, 1923, broadcasting from within an ordinary glass phone booth in Mutual Arena. The game went into overtime and Hewitt talked non-stop for three hours and eight minutes constantly wiping the fog from the glass in order to be able to see clearly. As well as reporting this game he added in between period comments and soothed the telephone operator who kept asking "What number are you calling?" 
With this success Hewitt found himself being a roving radio reporter. During his years with CFCA he broadcast events like; The dirigible R100 at Montreal, the Empress of Britain’s maiden voyage and marathon swims of the Canadian National Exhibition. He worked alongside some important men of the era such as Gordon Sinclair, Morley Callaghan and 
Earnest Hemingway. 
Maple Leaf Gardens 
When Conn Smythe was creating Maple Leaf Gardens he invited Foster’s father W.A Hewitt to become attractions manager for the Gardens. Conn Smythe also left it to Foster to create the perfect perch from which to broadcast the hockey play by plays. Foster went up and down from top to bottom of the original Eaton’s College building till he was satisfied and the Garden’s broadcast booth was born. Not at all user friendly. This famous booth later nicknamed the "Gondola" was a rickety box that you had to walk along a narrow steel catwalk 75 feet above the ice to get to. Then you had to swing by a rope like Tarzan to let the small ladder down and then you were in the box. Later a better small stair was added, but it wasn’t much. 
When the Garden’s officially opened on November 12th 1931, Foster Hewitt was both the Master of Ceremonies and play by play announcer. That famous greeting-" Hello Canada and hockey fans in the United States and Newfoundland" was repeated week after week, year after year until Newfoundland joined the Confederation in 1949. Hewitt’s high-pitched delivery made the dullest of games sound like a Stanley Cup final. 
Through the Depression when most Canadians had very little to be cheer about, Hewitt and Hockey Night in Canada filled a big void. And Canadians from every corner let him know just how much he and his broadcasts meant to them. They wrote letters as many as 90,000 a season from remote places such as a lighthouse on the Bay of Fundy, a fishing trawler on the North Atlantic to a Hudson’s Bay trading post north of Churchill. Many people sent small gifts of cough remedies, maple syrup rabbit’s feet and the odd tirade about his grammar. 
Even World War ll failed to dampen the growing popularity of NHL hockey. The sport was encouraged by military leaders. As the officer commanding a Royal Regiment of Canada told a war time audience. 
"More than anything else, the men in England want hockey broadcasts. More than even cigarettes and even parcels from home." Hewittt’s broadcasts continued every Saturday night through the early war years. But the demand from Canadian troops for condensed reports of the games was so great that an additional 30-minute summary was prepared each week and shipped around the world. Appreciative mail poured in from troops in China, India, Australia and New Guinea. One soldier wrote, "I have just been listening to the hockey game which was played last night at Maple Leaf Gardens. It was the most enjoyable time I have had since I left home. 
The war passed, Foster Hewitt opened his own radio station 
C.K F H. 1430 in Toronto in the early 1950’s. Garden’s technicians began experimenting with something called television. By 1967,the NHL was celebrating its 50th anniversary and television was bigger than radio had ever been. Foster and his own son, Bill Hewitt- had now been sharing the broadcasting duties. Bill mainly doing the television play by play and Foster doing the play by play for radio. Very few people could distinguish between these two voices. 
The 1972 Canada-Russia Series 
This famous hockey Series of 1972 has been described by many as the finest hockey the world will ever see. The exploits of Team Canada- with Esposito, Henderson and friends live on in the hearts of hockey fans everywhere. Paul Henderson’s game winning goal in the dying seconds of the final game will stand as one of the classic moments in sports history. For those who viewed this series, it was exciting hockey. For those who saw it as something else-an ideological and cultural battle played with sticks and skates- it was perhaps Canada’s worst and finest hour. For Foster Hewitt, those eight games in Canada and Russia were a welcome return to hockey as he believed it should be played. 

 


 
 
 Foster & Premier Leslie Frost with publisher John Bassett in background
 Conn Smythe & Foster
 Foster Hewitt introduced at a B'Nai B'Rith dinner by Conn Smythe
 Foster, Bobby Hull and George Brown  at a luncheon for Bobby
 King Clancy and Foster celebrating Canada Day 
 Foster with Johnny Wayne and Frank Shuster
 Conn Smythe autographs a copy of Foster's book "His own Story", as Red Horner the great leaf defenceman of the 30's looks on.
 Ceremonial Faceoff, Silver anniversary of Hockey Night in Canada-Foster drops the puck between Tracy Pratt Colorado Springs,and Daryl Sittler of  Toronto Maple Leafs.Foster called the second period and his son Bill called the first and third. 
Foster doing a play by play
 Foster in a promotional photo shoot.
Foster Hewitt -Early broadcasting years
Foster in Kamloops, B.C

 
 Foster - summer of 1983 at Upper Canada College's Association Day. This was the last time he attended this annual function of his old school. Seen with him are; Frank Kerr and Kirby Best of the Canadian Select Bobsled team, Olympic Squad.
Foster and Ed Sullivan, in town for a sports dinner, gang up on Gordon Sinclair
Foster & Son Bill Hewitt
Foster
with Brian Mac Farlane in the background 

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