You know you are north of the 49th parallel when the burning question of the day is: what will the world come to if the CBC loses the “Hockey Night in Canada” theme song. We are all about to find out. The unthinkable has happened.

This bizarre episode began in 1968, when Dolores Claman, a classically-trained composer, was asked to come up with theme music for something she had never seen first-hand, a professional hockey game. She pictured Roman gladiators on skates, and five notes suddenly popped into her head.

Even though the song went on to become one the country’s most recognizable commercial tunes, it never made her more than a modest income. She and her husband composed more than 2,000 jingles and theme songs.

Even with their commercial success, Dolores lived in relative obscurity until five days ago, when the hockey night ditty sold to CTV, a commercial broadcaster, for an estimated one million dollars. After agreeing to pony up $850,000, the CBC bailed out of the bidding war.

The eighty year-old jingle writer, who now lives in London, said the song “just arrived in my head.” She wanted it to reflect the narrative arc of hockey itself– the arrival at the rink, the battle on the ice, the trip home, with a cold beer at the end of it all. What could be more Canadian than that?

The CBC has been apologizing like crazy to irate listeners and viewers for losing the well-loved theme, but they hope to generate enthusiasm for a new theme with a country-wide competition.

A far more somber apology was issued by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the House of Commons on Thursday. Taking his cue from Kevin Rudd, the Conservative PM apologized for Canada’s efforts to wipe out aboriginal languages and culture in the name of assimilation, and, in particular, for the policy of removing native children from their families and placing them in residential schools.

Despite feelings by some Liberals that the apology reeked of political opportunism, Harper’s speech was well received and there were many wet eyes in the House.  It seems to have been one of the few acts since he  became prime minister that has been well regarded by most of the Canadian people.  The least favourable comments in the latest survey came from his fellow conservatives.

Unfortunately, Harper made no promises to improve social conditions.  It was one small step for Canadians on the long road to reconciliation and respect for the native population of this land.

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