Danny Gallivan

He never played the game. Yet in Montreal he is beloved almost as much as Rocket Richard and Guy Lafleur.

He is Danny Gallivan, the English voice of hockey in Montreal for three decades. In that time he broadcasted close to 2000 games including 16 Montreal Stanley Cup championships. Known nationally for his creative additions to the hockey lexicon (heck, to the English language) such as cannonading shot and spinnerama, Gallivan became a national treasure on par with Foster Hewitt.

Baseball Was First Love

Gallivan, the son of a coal shipper, was a star baseball player as Sydney, NS, as a youth. He was even invited to the New York Giants training camp, but an arm injury would rob him of his Major League Baseball career.

Gallivan turned the world of broadcasting, but all but lucked into the Montreal job. Regular announcer Doug Smith fell ill one night. Gallivan stepped in, not knowing any of the opposing players. In fact, this was the first NHL game Gallivan had ever seen.

Two years later Smith moved permanently to cover football, Gallivan would see a lot more NHL games. He became Montreal's announcer from 1952 to 1984.

The Dead Mike

No profile of Gallivan is complete without mentioning the story of the dead mike.

Gallivan was set in his ways and did not warm to new technology. When headsets complete with microphones arrived Gallivan refused to use it as he favoured his trusty old friend, the microphone. Eventually Gallivan agreed to use the headset (although he often just turned down the volume so he didn't have to hear the producers talking to him) but he would hold a dead mike in his hand. On one night he was interviewing a guest with this unplugged microphone. No one ever heard what the guest had to say.

Hockey Night In Canada

Montreal was once the center of everything NHL, but headquarters were moved to New York while Toronto took over as the media capital. The powers that be at Hockey Night in Canada did not want Gallivan beyond Montreal games. English Canada wanted someone else, Hockey Night in Canada reasoned. This began a phasing out of sorts.

How wrong HNIC was. That was never more evident than in February 1993 when, at the age of 75, he passed away. The outpouring of affection from across the country was inspiring.

For many, including many of today's broadcasters, Danny Gallivan was the standard of excellence in sports broadcasting. We could not have been any luckier to have Gallivan as the example.


Anonymous,  8:51 AM  

I grew up in the '60s& 70s and Danny Gallivan was a big part of my youth and in a class by himself. In those days CBC carried radio games on Sunday nights and I never missed them. The best games were with Danny Gallivan and Dan Kelly, before he went to St Louis. These guys were fantastic to listen to and to this day I get chills when I hear their voice.CBC should bring back the NHL on radio. I work the afternoon shift and missed most of the games on TV. There is a lot of fans in the same situation who would listen to the games, especially playoffs. Danny we miss you!!!

Anonymous,  8:08 PM  

I lived in NY but listyened to Foster Hewiit, Doug Smith & Danny Gallivan many a Saturday night in the 40s through 60s. I think Danny Gallivan was the best sportscaster I ever heard. You really felt like you were there. The only person who I thinks come close to him was Marty Glickman , who broadcast in the New York area

oaky 11:28 AM  

Many years ago I was interested in becoming a sports broadcaster. I grew up in a small village located about twenty-five miles west of Ottawa on the Quebec side. During that same period I came across an ad in a local newspaper referring to a broadcasting school located in Toronto. Not sure of the school's reputation and having nothing to provide me with some positive background, I can still recall my mother looking up Mr. Gallivan's phone number. I'm not sure whether it was listed or whether she had to go through directory assistance but she was in fact able to contact Mr. Gallivan's residence. Low and behold he answered the telephone and my mother proceeded to seek his advice, explaining my situation and the ad for the school in Toronto. As gracious as he sounded on television each and every Saturday night, Mr. Gallivan gave Mom all the time in the world that day. I'll never forget him for his token of kindness and willingness to help, as best he could, a family located many miles west of the city of Montreal.

Anonymous,  1:12 PM  

To THIS day, just hearing Danny Gallivans voice , in conjunction with a hockey game sends a shiver through me. He resonates the picture of a canadian family gathering around the TV on a saturday night to watch 'The Game' . HIS voice, and only HIS, captures that feeling and memory that All Canadians hold dear.
Thank-You , Danny .

Anonymous,  9:11 AM  

Danny Gallivan by far was my favorite NHL commentator. It took quite a while to get used to listening to someone else.

Bee 1:10 PM  

I enjoyed this post. I am a UBC student currently working on a dictionary of Canadian words. I am now working on the entry for "Spinarama," and as Danny Gallivan coined the term, we would like to include him in the dictionary entry. The trouble is I cannot find video or video transcript of him using the word. If anyone knows of any information or what year or game Mr. Gallivan first used the term, it would be a great way to commemorate him in a national dictionary! Thank you, B.

b 7:29 PM  

To B,
Looking for the spinnerama usage, I believe it was first used to describe the move that Serge Savard used, and it had never been seen until Savard used it. Mr. Gallivan, in his intense focus on the play was able to describe it after seeing it several times as the " the puck goes to the point and the Canadiens have the control and there's the Savardian Spinnerama to eluding the check of Clark …" or some such description. In your search for the first usage of the term, look into the years in which Savard was in the middle of his career as a Hab. It was when he had matured and gained confidence in his ability to control the puck on the point, that he first showed the fans his move.
At least that's how I remember those wonderful years.

Anonymous,  11:50 PM  

You could never get used to Foster Hewitt...who was a terrible homer and strange unimaginative sounding voice

Unknown 9:05 PM  

In the mid-1950s I was a 12-year-old living in rural Virginia, at least 300 miles from any hockey whatsoever. One Saturday night I came across a strange game announced in a way I had never heard before. As I tried to figure out what the game was I realized that the announcer was absolutely unique. He spoke English unlike any other announcer I had ever heard. Eventually I figured out the game was hockey; just about the time the radio station did a break to tell me it was CBM in Montréal. I went to my elementary school library Monday and looked up hockey. It was the beginning of a lifelong love affair with the game that only ended after almost 30 year avocation of refereeing. Danny was the cause of all that. I will never forget his descriptions and his honesty, things like "oh, the Canadiens got away with one there!" Or, my all-time favorite, "catching Davey Kdon is like catching a moonbeam in a basket." To me, Saturday night without Danny Gallivan was a wasted Saturday night.

Unknown 6:52 PM  

Danny Gallivan was the Vince Sculley of hockey. He was an eloquent announcer with total command of language, a true gentleman and a hero when I first met him as a 12 year old walking the corridors of the Forum before a game. As he approached me, I stood in awe and said ''Hi Mr.Gallivan''. He stopped immediately, asked me my name and where I was from, and then he wished me a great game saying it was his pleasure to meet me before moving on. Like Jean Beliveau, he was a true legend and real ambassador of this great sport of hockey.

Allan Nathanson 5:54 PM  

Danny was the greatest broadcaster, I became a big Montreal hockey fan in the early 60s and cherish Danny Gallivan, most exciting and his way with words, made the game sparkle

Unknown 2:57 PM  

Danny made you think you were sitting beside him in the press box..

Detroit Mark,  2:42 PM  

Grew up in the 60's and the 70's in Metro Detroit, and was so lucky to get CKLW Channel 9 in Windsor. IMO Hockey Night in Canada set the standard that no other sport can achieve in a coverage of a sport....and the announcer...Danny Gallivan...he had that "cannonading" was scintillating. We had some good announcers here in Detroit, Bruce Marytn for one, but to me Mr. Gallivan was the voice of hockey. And of course the wonderful colour man Dick Irvin.

And that was hockey as well. Watching the HNIC '79 Stanley Cup game 6 on the NHL network, this should a blueprint for teams such as San Jose, Arizona and such to see how to cover a game...cameras so close to the ice, not up in the rafters. This is better than most broadcast of any of the network games currently.

Also Bettmann should take a look and see how his officials should officiate, let players play, let them decide the game. Players seemed to respect one another as well, very few scrums after the whistle. What a joy to watch.

Unknown 4:47 PM  

I grew up with Danny Gallivan in Montreal, Foster Hewitt in Toronto, Budd Lynch in Detroit, Lloyd Pettit in Chicago, Fred Cusick in Boston and Jim Gordon in New York. (One should also mention René Lecavalier, the magnificent French language broadcaster of the Canadiens.) Each had his own style, but each had his own way of bringing hockey to life over the airways. Of the six, I would probably place Danny Gallivan as first among equals. He had style, total command of the game and the ability to grab the listener's attention. I don't think anyone can ever equal Danny Gallivan.

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