Despite its overwhelming success, it’s easy to understand why the new purveyor of Hockey Night In Canada would seek to change the broadcast’s brand. A difficult balance has to be achieved: After paying $5.2 billion for broadcast rights over the next 12 seasons, Rogers wants to adjust the flagship hockey broadcast in Canada enough to ensure the acknowledgment of Sportsnet’s ownership, but not so much as to alienate a long devoted audience.
Enter George Stroumboulopoulos, an “alternative” voice on which all Canadians can agree.
Stroumboulopoulos is the perfect choice to replace Ron MacLean as host of Hockey Night In Canada. Boasting a style that gives the illusion of rebel, the talk show host consistently reinforces the values that most Canadians hold dear. He appeals to a younger demographic while simultaneously possessing the ability to placate the old.
Having their cake, and eating it, too, Rogers also announced on Monday that MacLean would stay on not only as Don Cherry’s handler for Coach’s Corner, but also to fulfil hosting duties for Sunday night’s coverage. Once a year, he’ll continue his fine work anchoring the Hockey Day In Canada broadcast.
It says more about MacLean’s history than Stroumboulopoulos’s capability that expectations of the new host have been mostly tempered. Roll your eyes all you want at the cliches about big shoes to fill and a tough act to follow, the sentiment remains true: MacLean offered something to a Canadian institution that no one else could.
Following a defeat at the hands of their bitter rivals in Vancouver on April 22nd, Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith was interviewed by Karen Thomson for Team 1040 radio. She asked Keith specifically about a two-handed slash to the back of Canucks forward Daniel Sedin after he scored Vancouver’s third goal of the game. Keith condescendingly suggested that no such incident happened.
Oh, no. I don’t think there was. I think he scored a nice goal, and that’s what the ref saw. Maybe we should get you as a ref maybe, eh? The first female referee. Can’t play probably either, right? But you’re thinking the game, like you know it? Yeah, see ya.
Demeaning and unprofessional? Certainly. Sexist? I’m not entirely sure.
There exists a strange sort of arrogance in Canadian culture. It’s one that helps us feel a meager measure of superiority over our larger, louder, more populous and far less concerned neighbors to the South. It’s one that values the idea of a cultural mosaic above that of a melting pot, and it imagines that such a hierarchy of values rings true in the hearts of every Canadian. It’s one that says:
Hey there, Mr. and Mrs. Immigrant, there’s a nice little place for you right here in the collective stained glass window of our nation.
It’s patently false. We’re a country of ignorant and stupid morons who discriminate against people with differences just like every other nation on earth. What’s so maddening to me about Canada’s xenophobia is that a) I live in this country and not others, where I’m sure I’d be equally disturbed by it; b) That we imagine ourselves to be so high above something that we’re not; and c) The continued platform given to Don Cherry by Canada’s national broadcasting network.
On the Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, Gurdeep Ahluwalia and Nabil Karim hosted TSN’s Sports Centre (notice the “re” instead of the “er”), as they did once before in March of 2012. Both Ahluwalia and Karim have brown-colored skin. This, to many Canadian sports fans who are used to seeing the white-colored skin of Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole was cause to take to social media and express off-colored jokes.
Following the conclusion of the NHL labor dispute, the curiosity of hockey fans shifted from the specifics of a new collective bargaining agreement between the league and its players to questioning its own reaction to the sport’s return. Would hockey fans come back to the game after the NHL lockout led to the cancellation of almost half of the regular season schedule? Would there be a backlash for the long, drawn out and at times, bitter labor dispute that resulted in foolishly minimal alterations to proposals at the very beginning of negotiations?
Last week, we briefly posited the idea that it was in the Canadian sports media’s best interest to report that hockey fans are back in droves because the livelihood and occupational success of many journalists depend on interest in what’s happening in the NHL. However, any talk of self-serving media conspiracy theories were quickly quashed once the television ratings for the first few games of the season were released.
More than a quarter of Canada’s population watched a portion of the opening night broadcast of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens game – the two worst teams in the Eastern Conference from the previous season - on Hockey Night In Canada. On average, 3.3 million people watched the game. It was record viewership for a regular season game in that time slot. In fact, records were set in all three of the broadcast’s time slots, with an average of 1.49 million viewers for HNIC’s 3 PM ET Ottawa Senators and Winnipeg Jets premiere, and 1.47 million for the Anaheim Ducks and Vancouver Canucks game.