Cherry’s sidekick is kicked further aside
by DAVID SHOALTS, The Globe and Mail
Ron MacLean has been frozen out of the new version of Hockey Night In Canada. Literally.
While George Stroumboulopoulos will sit in the studio chair and take the starring role that once was his – ringmaster of the most popular show on Canadian television – MacLean will be looking in from the outside on Sunday nights. And even he admits his fractious relationship with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, which saw Bettman boycott Hockey Night after one particularly contentious interview in 2010, might have something to do with it.
Under Rogers Communications Inc., Hockey Night’s new proprietor, the man known for decades as the face of the show has a lesser presence. MacLean, 54, will still serve as Don Cherry’s foil/sidekick on Coach’s Corner on Saturday nights, but he faces exile on Sunday nights to Rogers Hometown Hockey. This is a show within a show where Stroumboulopoulos will throw from the Toronto studio to MacLean, who will be broadcasting from a different Canadian community each week, often from its frigid arena or the snowy and windy streets, squares or even ponds and lakes. Think of it asHockey Night’s old annual feature in its CBC days, Hockey Day In Canada, coming at you once a week.
This is the biggest change in role among the major on-air people at Hockey Night.
“I’m looking forward to that; I think it’s a great concept,” MacLean said near the start of an interview. “I kind of view Sunday night as a great television night for a couple reasons. Obviously it’s a competitive night, but we’re tidying up to get ready to go off to a work week and also tidying up to get off to a school week. That presents a real opportunity to focus the show in that regard. And I know that families are trying to have family night because everybody has to go to work on Monday. I think it’s going to be a really successful night to put on hockey.”
But as the conversation continued – and the topic turned to the belief among his broadcasting colleagues that MacLean’s on-air clashes with Bettman played no small role in his reduced role – there were hints MacLean may not be quite as sanguine about the change as it seems. MacLean and Bettman usually butted heads over labour-management issues in the NHL. MacLean consistently took the players’ side during interviews because, he said, he firmly believed the league was better off with a strong NHL Players’ Association.
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From what I’ve seen in the Pre-Season, MacLean is sorely missed. But, so are the other regular contributors to the intermissions. The interviews are sad, the man with the mic is ill prepared and stumbles more than a pro should. I will never miss Don Cherry but the other regulars…yes, very much so.
I for one don’t have a problem with this. CBC’s coverage over the last few years has been horrible. Was hoping they would wipe the slate clean. MacLean’s humor is inappropriate at times. I remember an incident years ago involving him and Brian Burke and others from the NHL talking about the state of the game. Then there was the pre game comment about comparing hockey players to 911 firemen and police. MacLean was making jokes and Burke would have none of it. I will not miss MacLean
If so, thanks, Gary Bettman.
The whole way that went down was not good… too bad about Ron Mclean…
now we’re going just be bombarded with NHL from October to June (yes, including playoffs) , kind of very American like no???
People are going to start tuning out..