In order to help you visualize them, CBC has set the songs to video of the HNIC opening (even including the “Hello Canada and hockey fans in the United States and Newfoundland” voice intro). In all of them, the absence of the old theme is jarring, especially next to familiar video.
Here are some thoughts of mine off the top of my head for the five semifinalists. I’m not a music expert (but I know a few who will no doubt chip in), so don’t take these as gospel because I have no clue what I’m talking about.
(Warning: CBC forces you to watch the same stupid Bell ad before each video. Sorry.)
1. Ice Warriors (by Gerry Mosby): A complicated melody, but without any climax. It sounds like a good part of a song, but it’s missing the rest. Even as a fan of rock music, the guitar really threw me off. It belongs in a 70s album, not on the Hockey Night theme.
2. Sticks to the Ice (by Robert Fraser Burke): This one builds energy, and the professional arrangement is a huge improvement over a 13-year-old on a piano. But it’s still lacking. Just when you think it’s going to hit you hard, it sulks back into a melody that doesn’t seem to go anywhere.
3. Eleventh Hour (by Graham McRae): McRae is a skilled composer, and this one doesn’t lack for energy. He seems to really get the point. CBC’s orchestral recording of it seems a bit muted though, especially compared to McRae’s original. The melody in this one is my favourite, but that doesn’t necessarily seal the deal.
4. Let the Game Begin (by Christian St. Roch & Jimmy Tanaka): This contribution from two Montrealers echoes the original in a non-copyright-infringing way. Similar use of instruments. It is very successful at building energy and anticipation, and best of all it doesn’t waste any time getting there (this is, after all, a minute-long intro, not a three-minute song). It has punch, but the theme gets a bit repetitive. Still, if your goal is to find as close to the original as possible, this is probably the one for you.
5. Canadian Gold (by Colin Oberst): I like this one, not so much because I think it’s better than the rest but mainly because it’s so different. It’s the only one I think that comes out swinging after it gets going, and has that feeling of raising an army to defeat the enemy. It doesn’t sound like it’s holding anything back, and it’s not as repetitive as the others. It’s also more upbeat, almost to the point of cliché, which I think will appeal to less hard-edged hockey fans. But I could do without the bagpipes.
All five are works worthy of praise, and the CBC chose well. I don’t think any of them nail it 100%, but they surprise me with their quality (I had earlier suggested the contest might not be worth it). The fact that there were close to 15,000 entries is kind of astonishing.
Voting closes at 11:59pm Tuesday. Two finalists will be announced Thursday, and then the winner will be on the Hockey Night in Canada premiere on Saturday.