A lot of people these days say, “Isn’t the Internet great?” The wonders of the World Wide Web never cease to amaze us, and that includes those of us who follow the world of hockey. Recently, I stumbled over a hockey blog that linked to something that I had seen some time ago on YouTube, and I thought that I would share it with you today.
Back in the 1950’s, hockey was not generally on television. Hockey Night in Canada had only added the orthicon tube to its program delivery, having been exclusively a radio affair in its earliest years. But in the United States, hockey was virtually nonexistent on TV and was looking for unique ways to market itself.
It’s really interesting to go back to November 19, 1957, to see one of those efforts. Believe it or not, Montreal Canadiens superstar Jean Béliveau appeared on “To Tell the Truth,” which happened to be one of my favorite programs when I was growing up. This is an earlier edition of the same program where legendary imposter Frank Abagnale, Jr. made such an impression on me approximately 20 years later. Let’s watch:
Can you imagine a New York based, nationally televised program actually putting Wayne Gretzky on the air in the prime of his career and not expecting someone to recognize him? Had I been on this Earth and sitting next to Kitty Carlisle on that night, I would have had to disqualify myself, because Le Gros Bill is immediately recognizable in his Montreal Canadiens uniform (or, “costume,” as Miss Carlisle described it charmingly).
As you watch this wonderful look back in NHL marketing history, note that Béliveau is not wearing his famous number 4, but number 22. One of the other contestants is wearing number 4. As it turns out, one of the other contestants is also a CBC television director.
A couple of other notes: Ching Johnson was a great, domineering defenseman for the New York Rangers in the 1930’s. Here is a famous pose:
What a wonderful look back at history. Isn’t the Internet wonderful?