Sky was limit for Canucks

AEDAN HELMER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:19 AM ET

With millions of pairs of eyes firmly fixed to television sets across this hockey-mad country, the technology that brings our national pastime into Canadian homes can often be overlooked.

Nearly 30 years ago, in far-off Lima, Peru, a Canadian diplomat was able to receive a much-needed cure for playoff fever, administered via homegrown technology that was a revolution in its time.

Hermes, a satellite created and developed in Ottawa by the Communications Research Centre Canada, was launched into orbit in 1976.

Canada was the third country behind Russia and the United States to enter the space race with the 1962 launch of Alouette, but was the first to capitalize on the commercial potential of satellite broadcast technology.

"Russia and the U.S. had mainly military satellites," said Claude Belisle, CRC vice-president of satellite communications. "Canada was the first to use it as a domestic commercial telecommunications system."

Harnessing a new high-frequency band made accessible by homegrown research and development, the technology was soon in use on a widespread commercial scale.

The virgin broadcast of the world's first direct-to-home satellite television system beamed the 1978 Stanley Cup final across the western hemisphere.

FITTING TRIBUTE

"What's best for Canada to broadcast first? Well, the hockey game," said Belisle. "For Canada, of course, we have to broadcast the hockey game."

It seems a fitting time, then, with the country once again fast in the grips of Stanley Cup pandemonium, that Canada's Telecommunications Hall of Fame has chosen CRC as the recipient of the 2007 Special Recognition award.

The award is presented annually to a technology "of special significance to the success and legacy of Canadian telecom."

CRC will be honoured at the presentation ceremony in October in Montreal.

That first telecast game, appropriately, was won by the powerhouse Montreal Canadiens team en route to a third straight Stanley Cup, defeating the Don Cherry-coached Boston Bruins in a rough-and-tumble six-game series.

The winning roster reads like a who's who of the Hockey Hall of Fame: Goaltender Ken Dryden stole the show, backstopping the team behind playoff MVP defenceman Larry Robinson. Coach Scotty Bowman captured his fourth of a record nine championships, guiding legends Guy Lafleur, Bob Gainey, Jacques Lemaire, Yvan Cournoyer, Steve Shutt, Doug Jarvis and Serge Savard.

CRC president Veena Rawat said the Hermes technology was a giant step forward for Canada.

"There are places in the country where you can't have anything but satellite communication," said Rawat.

"So it was extremely important to have this broadcast technology, not only on the entertainment side, but also on the tele-education and tele-health. Today, the satellites are used for widening broadband (Internet) access to rural and remote areas."


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