Remembering Danny Gallivan


For me, and for so many others, there was no better announcer than Danny Gallivan, the voice of the Habs for 32 years from 1952 until 1984. He created incredible magic for Habs fans, and when I think of the old Montreal Forum and all the great games there, I think of Danny. Even today, especially today, I get goosebumps when I hear his voice.

I dug an old newspaper out of my trunk, a newspaper I’d kept from 1993 because it was about the greatest hockey broadcaster of them all. It’s a Calgary Herald, and the article is written by a terrific Herald staff writer named Gyle Konotopetz. In the story, he talks to Calgary Flames play-by-play man, Peter Maher, a legend in his own right, and Maher shares his own affection for Gallivan.

“It’s a snowy night in Boston…”
   Nothing is forever, thought Peter Maher, as he plugged in the majestic voice of hockey Friday afternoon and turned up the volume. Still, he wanted the cassette tape to roll forever.
“Big Robinson dashing up the ice…”
   Vintage Danny Gallivan, the same Danny Gallivan who Maher grew up listening to at Campbellton, NB, the buoyant voice crackling on a transistor radio, rising and falling with the play like a symphony.
“A cannonading drive by Cournoyer…”
   Maher wanted to listen and listen and listen. An eerie feeling came over the longtime radio voice of the Calgary Flames as he wheeled his car to the Saddledome on game day.
   The voice on the cassette seemed more alive, more vibrant than ever, yet the reality was that he would soon be dedicating this game, his 1,304th in the NHL, Rangers vs. Flames, to the memory of Gallivan, a haunting prospect.
The voice was that of his boyhood idol, and his pal, his life’s inspiration. The image is everlasting, like the Mona Lisa.
   “A shiver went up through me when I turned on the tape,” said an emotional Maher. “Foster Hewitt was the first good play-by-play man but Danny refined it. He was the master.”
   Danny Gallivan, the game’s artful crooner, died overnight Wednesday in his sleep. He was 75.
“Lemaire is on the prowl…”
   In the past, whenever Maher felt his own game slipping, he would plug in Gallivan. Friday, he replayed the most famous voice of Hockey Night In Canada in a glorious call of the deciding game of the 1978 Montreal-Boston Stanley Cup series to celebrate the legend. And he remembered the last words spoken by Gallivan in their last meeting, at the June draft in Montreal.
   “He said, ‘fed up with the grind yet, kid?” relates Maher, the Iron Man of broadcasters who has never missed an assignment. “Unfortunately, I was busy and didn’t get to spend much time with Danny. After I got my work done, I looked for him but he’d left. I feel kind of bad about that now. We should make time for those kind of things.”
   During Friday’s broadcast, Maher, 46, paid tribute to the fellow Maritimer whom he describes as “the god of the Maritimes.”
   Ed Whalen, the TV voice of the Flames, spoke in hushed tones about the man, then about the consumate pro behind the mike. “My, he was a god. A genuine class act, an exquisite man. Even though he was a god to me, when I met him for the first time in 1979 he treated me like a brother. He revolutionized broadcasting.”
“Oh, a Savardian spinnerama…”
   Maher was 18 when he first met his idol, the summer of ’65 in Montreal.  He was introduced by Denzil Murray, a Montreal police officer who also hailed from Campbellton. Murray died a week before Gallivan.
   “I was awe-stricken, almost speechless when I met him,” said Maher, the popular voice of the Flames the past 12 seasons. “Danny put me at ease.”
   Eventually Maher sent a tape of an amateur game to Gallivan. The native of Sydney, NS was so impressed he forecast Maher’s rise to the NHL at a banquet in Campbellton in the summer of ’77. “He said, ‘this kid’s a talent, you’re going to lose him soon.’ ”
   A few months later, on Nov. 11, Maher celebrated his 30th birthday as the rookie voice of Toronto Maple Leafs at the Forum. The old pro was in the next booth.
“The fans campaign for a penalty…”
   “Being up there with Danny, that’s when I knew I’d arrived,” said Maher, who last spoke to Gallivan on the phone in December. “But I’d never compare myself with him. I’ve used some phrases, like cannonading drive, but, out of respect, I never wanted to overdo it.”
“An e-NORRR-mous save by Dryden…”
   Maher’s exuberant call of the dullest of games can be traced to the infectious enthusiasm of Gallivan. “He told me that it was so important to look at every game as an important game….The biggest piece of advice he gave me was to take care of myself. He said its a tough, tough grind out there.”
“A scintillating save…”
   “He created excitement that was non-existent,” said Whalen. Said Maher: “Danny did a fair broadcast. He never struck me as a homer. And his word mixture was incredible. He preferred radio because it gave him an opportunity to paint a picture for his audience.”
“Risebrough robustly slams Johnathan into the boards…”
   Even with the advent of headset microphones, Gallivan persisted in using the traditional hand-held mike.
   “The hand-held mike was like a saftey valve to him, even though the mike was dead,” said Maher. “One time, Danny had to cough so he held the mike away from hi and coughed. Of course, the cough went over the air.”
“Look at the consternation on the countenance of Scotty Bowman…”
   “Kids would listen to him at night and wake up in the morning, asking their father what that phrase meant,” said Maher. “He was educating people. I’d never compare myself with him. Danny was the master.”
“The puck is lodged in Lapointe’s paraphernalia…”

For an example of Gallivan’s magic, here’s a clip of an April 16th, 1979 game at the Forum between Montreal and Toronto. Dick Irvin and Gerry Pinder are the colour guys, and the legendary Roget Doucet kicks it off with the national anthem.

30 thoughts on “Remembering Danny Gallivan”

  1. RIP Danny Gallivan

    Although he was not of my generation, he and his trademark voice will be missed.

    Watching videos of the Habs with him commeting, gave me the chills.

    luckily we have Pierre Houde, who, I think is a terrific broadcaster.

    His legendary ” ET LE BUT!” phrase will not be forgotten either.

    out of numerous broadcasters in America and Canada, I find that they try too hard. Montreal’s broadcasters are very genuine, and that’s what makes you like them.

  2. Thanks for that Dennis. I loved Danny Gallivan, to me he was and will always be the voice of hockey. Loved watching us beat the Leafs 5-2. We need to get back to the glory days, I started watching hockey in the early seventies, I’m glad that I got to see the team at their best.

  3. What fantastic play by play! I wish I could listen to his play by play today. I was 2 yrs old at the time of this clip and it seems that I missed out on a lot of great habs hockey. Shutt, Lafleur and Lemaire simply amazing! One player that impressed me in this clip was Gainey, I didn’t realize what a strong skater he was, I only recall his play at the end of his career.

    Has the team/nhl every released full videos from this era? It would be nice to sit and watch the Habs in a full playoff season and listen to Mr. Gallivan’s call. It would be funny to see my mother curse Palmateer again!

  4. Ryan, if you get ahold of the ten dvd set of the Habs most memorable games, you can hear Danny do his thing in several games. And you’re absolutely right about Gainey. He was a really strong skater. Gainey, although a defensise specialist, was one of the most important players on those 1970’s teams. You can see him in action also on those dvd’s.

  5. Thanks Dennis,That brought back a whole lot of memories for me.Danny was the ultimate announcer for sure,his descriptions of on ice actions will never be done again with the enthusiasm that he used toshow,I too get shivers and goose bumps,along with big smiles everytime I hear his call.

  6. You saw them at their best, Moey. Wasn’t Danny great. I wish there was more material on him. And one other thing, about your previous comment about Koivu and the Habs winning the cup. I just know deep down that you’ll eventually put the whole sordid affair to bed and end up embracing the new team. And when they win it all, you’ll be cheering and reaching for the keenex box. You’ll get used to seeing Koivu in another jersey. I think you’re the greatest Koivu fan out there and I know you’re upset he’s gone. But you’ll end up loving the new team. Pretty sure, anyways.

  7. You know, I speak very little french but I enjoy Pierre Houde and the way he does the games. He’s very smooth, has a great voice, and I agree with you, he’s terrific. Not too sure about his sidekick Benoit Brunet, though. And I love hearing “ET LE BUT!”

  8. Thanks Derry. I feel exactly the same. I’m really glad you enjoyed it and had memories come back. I think we all miss Danny. And did you notice in the clip that Dryden let in a couple of soft ones?

  9. Dennis,

    Ha ha, I thought exactly the same thing on Lanny’s goal from the blue line. (I think it was Lanny, i’m too lazy to watch it again, the sun is out and my pool looks inviting) Price gets crucified when he lets in one of those………about Koivu, I have good days and bad days, sort of like withdrawel symptoms and the season hasn’t begun. I still love my Habs and it’s team first, players are secondary. It’s just tough, that’s all, just bear with me it will be less and less.

  10. DK , I can’t think of anything to add ,you said it all in your post & tribute to the one & only Danny Gallivan . Well done sir !! The hilite reel brings back very fond memories !
    Your Bud from the East

  11. Watching the video of the Habs play, gave me goosebumps, very much like the intro when the Habs enter the rink with ” Fix You” playing.

    Thank you Dennis Kane. you are a very good Habs man.

    From China, i’m the little dot at the complete end of your recent visitors map 😀

    I’m going to miss watching the Habs in the Bell Centre.

  12. Moey, exactly. Price gets crucified for something like that. Dryden used to let a lot of goals in like that. In the 1972 Summit Series, he was weak many times. You’ve brought up something very important. We must be a little less demanding with Price, a little more patient. Thanks. (Yes, it was Lanny)

  13. Haha, well. Chinese born Montreal.
    Moved here a month ago, seriously gonna miss everything about the great city of Montreal. The Hockey especially. I was looking forward to the new team

    All I have here in China is Badminton and Ping Pong… -_-

  14. Maybe you could start a Chinese hockey team with red, white and bleu colours! Anyway, it’s great to have a reader in China. Maybe down the road there will be more. Stay in touch please. Let me know about life there.

  15. haha, I definitely would start a team, if only people knew how to put on a pair of shoes here. I’m not kidding, either they wear slippers or they go bare footed.i’m the only one with socks and shoes.
    Supposed my school is supposed to have a Hockey program, since it’s an International school, so I’m gonna rip a few wristers and represent Montreal with my Habs jersey

    I definitely will stay in touch for quite some time, i bookmarked the site 😀
    I have to keep up with the Habs, so this will be my default place

  16. After a couple of minutes I recognized it as a game from that set. We look at those 2 goals as being soft but I think that is where goal tending was at that time. I’m certainly no expert but when you look at the players from then half of them can’t receive a pass! A guy like Lafleur stands out because so few players had his skill set. At times in that clip he reminded me of Kovalev. Now if you took Dryden, as he was in his prime, and you plunked him down today in the NHL he would look awful. That isn’t a knock on Dryden it just shows how far players have come in the last 30 years. As for Danny and Dick? Wow. They were better than anything we have today. Getting to hear Danny and Dick again is like finding that extra Christmas present under the tree that you weren’t expecting.

  17. Nice comments Dis John! Loved your last line. And if you ever want to write a post for this blog you’re sure welcome.

  18. Wow! That’s awesome Dennis, thanks alot!
    Here’s my Email: ( sorry for my lame, lame, email, I made it when i was 7.)

    E-mail me sometime and show me how to post your blog, i won’t spam it, i promise, haha.

  19. Haha. Just messing with ya, Dennis. I knew it wasn’t aimed towards me, but you weren’t specific, so i had a little fun :p

  20. Thanks Dennis. I really enjoy your site. You just keep doing what you do and I’m content to throw in my 2 cents worth once in a while.

  21. One of most famous monikers/phraze of Danny Gallivan was when the Habs would be in the offensive zone awaiting a face off. Danny would shout “EVERYBODY UP IN THE BOSTON ZONE!”In the 70’s every NHl city had their cast of broadcast characters.Fred and Johnny in Boston, Jim Gordon and Chadwick in New York, Gene Hart in Phillie Pat Foley and Dale Tallon in Chitown and The best of them all Dan Kelly in St. Louis.

  22. Hey Dennis,Thanks for the replay,I never get overdosed on a voice that descriptive as Danny’s.If hockey can be described as a fine wine,then Danny;s voice was the golden goblet from which it was served.

  23. Robphill, Vancouver had Jim Robson, and I didn’t even mind Bill Hewitt in Toronto. But for me, Danny was the best and when I hear him now it moves me.

  24. Hello Dennis,
    Just stumbled across your site on a search and noticed your fine tribute to Danny Gallivan. Nice touch.
    I appreciate the reprint of the column.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *