Davidson, Holland to Lead Hot Stove Revival at Foundation’s Inaugural Induction Dinner

Davidson, Holland to Lead Hot Stove Revival at Foundation’s Inaugural Induction Dinner

The history of hockey’s Hot Stove goes back to the early days of NHL games on radio. Before its advent, according to the History of Canadian Broadcasting, “. . . between periods, radio listeners were entertained by the Luigi Romanelli Orchestra playing for dancers at Toronto’s Silver Slipper.”  Eventually, what was then called the Hot Stove League became the biggest part of intermissions on radio.

In the early 1950s, it made the leap to Hockey Night in Canada on TV.  “The only surviving televised footage from the first season of English HNIC telecasts is the final (Toronto) home game on March 21, 1953 with the Leafs defeating the (New York) Rangers 5-0,” according to Hockey Night in Canada — The Television Years. “In that telecast, the long-time radio tradition ‘Hot Stove League’ is the primary intermission feature. Canadian actor Murray Westgate played the part of an Imperial Oil gas station attendant and together with Dave Price, Charlie Conacher, Harold Cotton and Ed Fitkin, supplied the between periods entertainment. In Montreal, there was a similar ‘Hot Stove’ setup with Philippe Robert portraying the French version of the Esso dealer and Jean Maurice Bailly as the ‘storekeeper’ or host.”

More than 50 years later, with the NHL season shut down by a lockout, HNIC was showing what it billed as ‘Classic Games.’ Under the guidance of executive producer John Shannon, the Hot Stove came back, this time featuring host Ron MacLean and a panel comprising John Davidson, Jim Hughson and Scott Morrison. By the time the NHL’s schedule resumed in January 1995, Davidson and Hughson were regulars on what now was called ‘Satellite Hot Stove’ and was seen in the second intermission. Jim Kelley, Red Fisher, Morrison and Al Strachan were among those who also would appear.  Years later, Strachan would even write a book about the show — Hot Stove: The Untold Stories of the Original Insiders.

These days, of course, it seems that the intermissions of every televised NHL game feature panel discussions — mini-Hot Stove sessions, if you will, even if they contain more game analysis than what is purported to be inside information.  All of which brings us to the present day and the Western Canada Professional Hockey Scouts Foundation.

The Foundation will hold its inaugural Wall of Honour induction dinner on July 30 at the Foothills Centennial Centre, which is connected to the Centennial Arena in Okotoks, Alta. The Wall of Honour has a permanent home in the foyer of the arena.  The highlight of the dinner will be the induction of 45 past and present-day scouts into the Wall of Honour.  And a couple of Hot Stove sessions also will light up the night.

When the Foundation held its startup banquet on Sept. 30, the main attraction was a roast of MacLean, the HNIC host. BTW, if you haven’t seen HNIC’s Elliotte Friedman’s roasting of MacLean, it’s terrific and it’s available on the Foundation’s website (hockeyscoutsfoundation.com).

The Foundation’s board of directors chose to change things up for the inaugural dinner, deciding to take the theme ‘Tales from the Road’ and incorporate it into a Hot Stove format.

Davidson, who obviously knows all about the Hot Stove, will be one of nine participants in Okotoks. Joining him will be Craig Button, Archie Henderson, Ken Holland, Craig MacTavish, Mike Penny, Brian Skrudland, Al Tuer and Dr. Hayley Wickenheiser.  Each of the nine aforementioned knows his/her way around arenas throughout the hockey-playing world and certainly in Western Canada.

Davidson, these days a senior advisor and alternate governor with the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets, will return to his Hot Stove role with Tales from the Road.  Holland is the Edmonton Oilers’ president of hockey operations and general manager. He got his start-up the executive ladder by working as an amateur scout with the Detroit Red Wings.  Button, a familiar face on TV thanks to his role as TSN’s director of scouting, is from a hockey family and has scouting in his background — with the Minnesota North Stars, Dallas Stars and Toronto Maple Leafs. He also spent three seasons as the Calgary Flames’ general manager. Dr. Wickenheiser, a resident physician and assistant GM with the Maple Leafs, played 23 years with the Canadian national women’s team. She played on four Olympic and seven world championship teams.  Henderson, MacTavish, Penny, Skrudland and Tuer all have reputations in the hockey world as wonderful storytellers, and they’ll be out to prove it on July 30.

Tickets for the dinner are available on the Foundation’s website.

Gregg Drinnan
Western Canada Professional Hockey Scouts Foundation
Editor and Historian
[email protected]