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TORONTO (Reuters) - The "Hockey Night in Canada" theme song, a mainstay of Canadian households for 40 years and often thought of as the unofficial second national anthem, may have launched its final hockey game, according to the company that controls use of the song.
The tune, which has opened the Canadian Broadcasting Corp's Saturday night National Hockey League broadcasts since the late 1960s, will not be renewed as the broadcaster has chosen to move in a new direction, said John Ciccone, president of Copyright Music & Visuals.
"Effective immediately following the last playoff game of this season the CBC will cease using the Hockey Night in Canada theme," he said in a statement on the company's website.
He said the CBC had advised the firm it is not prepared to enter into a new license agreement. The old agreement, which cost the CBC about C$500 ($490) for each game broadcast, expired following the final game of the Stanley Cup playoffs on Wednesday.
"Hockey Night," which made its television debut in 1952, has consistently been a top-rated program in Canada, where hockey reigns as the most popular sport.
The theme music was written in 1968 and has continued with minor changes since then. Last year, it became downloadable as a cellphone ringtone.
Calls to the CBC were not immediately returned. The CBC was sued in 2004 by the composer of the tune, saying the public broadcaster used it too much.
Reaction to the story was quick among hockey fans in both Canada and the northern United States who have grown up with the song.
By mid-afternoon on Thursday, the Globe and Mail newspaper's online edition had 176 reader comments, most of which were heavily critical of the idea of retiring the tune.
"This change reminds me of the "new Coke" attempt back in the '80s," read a note from E. Stuhl of New York City.
"If it ain't broke, don't fix it."