TORONTO – Dolores Claman, the woman behind the catchy tune that used to host CBC’s “Hockey Night in Canada” broadcasts, has died at 94.
Claman’s daughter, Madeleine Morris, said Saturday her mother died in Spain this week, about two years after she was diagnosed with dementia.
“He was a good, middle age, and he had an amazing life,” Morris told The Canadian Press. “I am tearful from time to time, but most of all I am grateful that he is at peace.”
Claman was born in Vancouver and grew up with an opera singer for a mother. He graduated from high school at 16 and later trained as a concert pianist at the Juilliard School in New York, Morris said.
At Juilliard, Claman decided that she preferred to be a songwriter and developed a love for jazz, Morris recalled.
After graduation and the end of World War II, his mother moved to England and met and married Richard Morris.
They later moved to Toronto and co-wrote thousands of jingles, including “A Place To Stand” with their popular lyric “Ontari-ari-ari-o” for the 1967 Expo.
Claman was working for Maclaren Advertising in 1968 when she was hired to write the title track that opened the CBC “Hockey Night in Canada” broadcasts.
He never expected the song, often called Canada’s second anthem, to be as successful as it did and said it wasn’t until at least 10 years after the song’s debut that he truly realized its popularity.
“Some of my son’s friends at school thought it was amazing. They came to the door to see me. And it became more and more popular,” Claman told The Canadian Press in 2016.
“I wanted my name on it because I was watching hockey and at the end they say ‘on’ and ‘best boy.’ I called CBC and wrote to someone (there). They did not give it to me. They didn’t see any reason. ”
Ultimately, she negotiated the credit before the licensing rights to the beloved song were sold to CTV in 2008, when Claman and the music agency representing her were unable to negotiate a deal with CBC.
Claman was pleased with the song, but the attention it received seemed to surprise her, Morris said.
“She was quite shocked when people started making a big fuss about it,” Morris said.
“I remember seeing her hear a recording of it much later in life … She was analyzing it and she said, ‘I’m very proud of that. It was good, it was good for what it should have been. ‘ ”
While the song attracted Claman’s attention, it has sentimental value to Canadians and hockey lovers who grew up listening to it before cheering for their favorite teams.
“The theme of ‘Hockey Night in Canada’ is very dear to the hearts of so many hockey fans, and the start of many exciting Saturday nights,” said Chris Wilson, executive director of CBC Sports and Olympics, in an email.
“Our condolences to Dolores’s family.”
John Ciccone, founder of Copyright Music and Visuals, called Claman “smart, strong, confident, and exceptionally fair.”
“She always kept the giant heart and soul of an artist. She read fan letters and watched videos of school bands and children enthusiastically playing ‘the hockey theme,’ ” he said in a statement.
“I could see the tears in her eyes. I was so moved. It was an honor for her that she never took for granted.”
Morris also described her mother as a “strong feminist” and said that sexism in the advertising business never fazed her.
“I just did what I do. Most of the men (who) worked with me were very nice,” Claman said in 2016, when she spoke about how she was one of the few women in her industry.
“I rarely had a problem with them not wanting to work with a woman, well yeah, a couple of times, but that’s fair enough. I was lucky not to worry about that at the time.”
But Morris recalled an incident when Claman was having dinner with a client in Toronto. The restaurant refused to serve Claman because women were supposed to wear skirts and dresses. She was wearing an emerald green blouse and flared pants.
“He stood there … in front of the maitre d ‘and the whole table, unzipped his pants and took them off,” Morris said.
Claman is survived by Morris and his son Michael.
Morris said his mother loved to travel and admired the UK’s Regent’s Park gardens, so the family will scatter her ashes in the park and in the Mediterranean.
– with files from David Friend in Toronto