Reel Beach: East Toronto home an inspiration for Dolores Claman, composer of the iconic Hockey Night in Canada theme music

The NHL playoffs begin tonight (Monday, May 2) and Toronto Maple Leafs fans might want to channel their inner-Youngblood as the local team faces the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round. This photo from the movie shows Rob Lowe, left, as Youngblood and Keanu Reeves, right, as Heaver. A number of scenes in the movie were shot at Ted Reeve Arena.


It’s Hockey Night in Canada. The NHL playoffs are here and long-suffering fans hope to see the Toronto Maple Leafs end their 55-year Stanley Cup drought. Go Leafs Go!

The name Dolores Claman may not ring a bell, but everyone knows her iconic music, The Hockey Theme, her gift to Canada’s sport.

On April 10 the Canadian Screen Awards gave a heartfelt tribute to the composer who passed away last July at the age of 94.

Sidney Crosby recalled: “That song…I have so many memories. Every Saturday night growing up was centred around watching Hockey Night in Canada so I’ve heard that song a lot.”

Dolores Claman was born in Vancouver in 1927 and studied classical piano at the Juilliard School in New York.

She decided to become a composer in London, England where she met and married writer/lyricist Richard Morris in 1957.

The couple moved to Toronto and became one of Canada’s busiest commercial jingle writing teams, as well as writing for the theatre, television and films.

Their first home was a white, frame house on Springbank Avenue right above the Scarborough Bluffs.

They moved to Glen Manor Drive, then to a beautiful, new home on Fallingbrook Drive overlooking Lake Ontario.

In Canada’s Centennial Year, 1967, Claman and Morris were commissioned to write music for the Ontario Pavilion at Expo ’67 in Montreal.

Who can forget the refrain, “A place to stand, a place to grow, Ontari-ari-ari-o”?
Morris described A Place to Stand as “a love song to Ontario”. Christopher Chapman’s 18-minute film went on to win an Academy Award.

In 1968 Hockey Night in Canada wanted a new opening theme.

Claman composed music at her grand piano by a window surrounded outside by her garden, trees and the blue expanse of the lake which gave her inspiration.
One afternoon an idea came to mind. She told the Globe and Mail in 2008 that “the song wasn’t hard to do.”

Claman pictured Roman gladiators marching into the arena and doing battle on the ice, clashing on skates, then the trip home. The composer had never seen a live pro hockey game, but the music “just arrived in my head”.

When Scarborough’s Mike Myers filmed his unfunny comedy, The Love Guru (2008), with scenes at Bluffer’s Park, he insisted on using The Hockey Theme.

“We, as Canadians, can still hear ‘dunt-da-Dunt-da-dunt’, which is, you know, just as Canadian as winter. It’s almost our second anthem,” he said.

Hockey Night in Canada is part of our heritage, born in 1952, just weeks after television broadcasting began in this country.

We are fortunate to live near the lake, woods and nature which has inspired so many creative talents who have called the Beach “home”, including Norman Jewison, Glenn Gould, Doris McCarthy, William Kurelek and, yes, Dolores Claman.

The Juno Awards celebrate the best in Canadian music on May 15 (CBC, 8 p.m.).

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