1. CBC Hockey Night In Canada (Original)
Could there be any doubt? This isn't a sports theme, it's a fucking national anthem. Remember all of the news stories when CBC wouldn't pay the composer of the theme, and TSN stepped in to buy the rights? Step back and think about that for a second. News stories, in actual national newspapers, for months about the jingle that plays before hockey games. This song can't even be judged on its musical merits anymore, it just is Canada. To even attempt to critique this song artistically, or to rank it anywhere lower than #1, would be like some shitheel New Yorker book reviewer giving Shakespeare a B-.
Science hasn't proven this yet, but I'm almost certain Canadians' DNA is sequenced with genomes that spell out da-da-da-DA-da-DA in morse code. Knowledge of this song should be on the Canadian citizenship test. If I operated a hostel in France and saw travelers with Canadian flags sewed on their backpacks, I'd ask them to hum The Hockey Song (that it's this specific hockey song is automatically implied) as a shibboleth - and if they couldn't, I'd treat them as les Américains, with plenty of le scorn.
NOTE: This ranking ONLY covers the original CBC version, with its big, bombastic horns. The TSN arrangement is technically the same tune, but much like the 1998 remake of Psycho with a masturbating Vince Vaughn, just because you've got the same basic script doesn't also make it a classic.
2. CBC Olympic Theme
Can I confess something to you guys? I can make myself cry just by listening to this song.
I can't explain it. It's a Pavlovian reflex. Sometimes I'll get nice and drunk (I have to be drunk, it doesn't work otherwise), watch the Youtube video for any old CBC Olympic intro - '98 Nagano (Elvis! The talk of this town!), '02 Salt Lake City (the spirit of America!) and I can't explain why, I just well up. Chalk it up to mushy, wistful patriotism mixed with childhood nostalgia. Man, I would just sit 6 inches from the screen as a kid and soak up as much CBC Olympic coverage as I could. And this year, the Olympics are back on CBC, and they've got the old theme back!!! With the timezone difference, this might get messy in a couple weeks. I can see myself stumbling home from the bar on a Friday night and just sitting in front of the TV drunkenly eating Popeye's, blubbering as this themesong plays before the commercial break of live, exciting biathlon action.
3. MLB on TSN
First of all, the arrangement is timeless. This could have ended up sounding very 90s, with a lot of Velveeta-cheesy synth and Casio keyboard smooth-jamming. Instead, it's got these huge, sweeping horns - da da DA DAAAA! - that make you clench your butthole a bit when you hear them.
Second of all, the Expos, man.
The fuckin' Expos.
(Alright, I know you're still watching the Youtube clip, because it's got Dave Van Horne and Gary Carter, but we really need to move along.)
4. CBC Sports
The theme itself is perfectly serviceable as the theme for most CBC sports coverage - y'know, when they show figure skating and luge and stuff on Sundays when you're too hungover to change the channel - but what really makes this a great theme is the sting. That's the little three-note riff at the 0:15 mark - baaa Baaa BAAAA! - which is perfect as a little 2-second identifier before and after commercial breaks. Like the NBC chimes or the Intel four-note chord, it makes for a perfect stinger to all CBC sports coverage, including Hockey Night In Canada.
This song is like "In The Air Tonight" - an otherwise acceptable song with a killer little fill in the middle.
5. CTV Olympic Theme
Much derided for the version with cornball lyrics about believing in yourself and shit, the actual orchestral version of this theme is a grand, sweeping melody, and it was used to great effect for the two Olympics covered by CTV in Vancouver and London. Still - and this isn't really a knock, it's akin to saying "that new singer in Queen isn't as good as Freddie Mercury" - it's no CBC Olympic theme.
6. Sportsnet Baseball
This theme, only in use for the past 2 years (and yes, this is a making-of-the-theme video, not the actual version as it appears pre-game) has grown on me a lot. You can just see the looks on the violinists' faces: motherfucker, you like gravitas? I'll give you some gravitas.
Fun fact: Stephan Moccio, the mop-haired conductor who created this theme and who plays the role of Simon-Cowellesque-mean-judge on Canada's Got Talent, was also to blame for Wrecking Ball! Combine that with his association with the 2013 Toronto Blue Jays, and he's becoming quite the expert on trainwrecks.
7. Raptors on TSN
Alright, we're getting into some of the more middling entries. This theme is totally fine. It delicately dances the tightrope of "I'm a sports theme song, so big strings and brass riffs!", but also "I'm a basketball theme song, so with the hippity and the hoppity." Still, doesn't it seem like it should be bigger somehow? Compared to the dick-waving grandeur of Roundball Rock, this had might as well be a cut from the album Smooth Muzak for your Dentist Waiting Room.
8. NHL on Sportsnet
Like all things owned by Rogers, perfectly acceptable but probably not your first choice.
You know why this doesn't sound anywhere near as good as the Hockey Night in Canada theme? The main melody in the brass riff goes down. It's like some morose Tom Waits songs about a dying man on a fishing boat. Good sports themes build up and up and UP, like a dubstep remix of the Star-Spangled Banner, and in turn get you pumped up, until you just want to rip your bag of Doritos in half and slam your face into the TV, for SPORTS!
9. TSN Hockey
If you don't understand why this song - the exact same song as the number 1 entry! - is ranked all the way down at #9, I'm sorry. I can't help you.
10. CFL on TSN
Jeez there bawd, ya gettin' dickered off a mickey, errr? Shit I was just oat fer a rip and fuckin' buddy tries to bum a dart, I'm like, take off eh, I got a full two-fer on my chesterfield, plannin' on watchin' Eskies n' Tabbies eh, faaaack bawd, ya-
[snaps awake] Aghh! Oh, fuck. Sorry - the combination of the CFL and country music just put me into some sort of hypnotized, Saskatchewan hoser trance.
11. TSN Curling
Does this get you pumped up for some hard-sweeping, precision-guarding, screaming, rock-slammin' action OR WHAT?
285. Getting hit by a zamboni
286. CTV's "I Believe" theme with lyrics