Sunday, 9 March 2014

Stroumbo Night In Canada

If you haven't heard, TSN's Bob McKenzie was breaking news all over the hockey world today. Bob took to his Twitter account with insider information on the broadcasting industry as he uncovered Sportsnet's newest host for their coverage of hockey next season through their deal with the CBC. CBC's late-night interviewer George Stroumboulopoulos will reportedly take over the hosting duties from Ron MacLean as Sportsnet looks to change the look of the hockey broadcasts from the proven CBC method. While there is no doubt that Stroumboulopoulos is a hockey fan and Canadian, I'm pretty certain this news will ruffle some feathers amongst Canadian hockey fans.

For the last three decades, Canadian hockey fans have tuned into to see Ron MacLean and Don Cherry do their thing on Coach's Corner. It is the mainstay of the Hockey Night in Canada broadcast. Announcers have changed. Studio analysts have changed. Producers have changed. Coach's Corner has not. Regardless of who was playing on the ice, you knew that the first intermission was going to have Don Cherry and Ron MacLean giving their opinions on hockey and the game being broadcast by the CBC. This was as certain as death and taxes.

Instead, when you tune in for the first regular season game next season, it will be George Stroumboulopoulos greeting you in Toronto to the CBC studios. Ron MacLean will be re-assigned to the Sportsnet broadcasts instead of him being a fixture on the CBC set. There has been no confirmation on what role Ron MacLean will take with Sportsnet, but you'd have to figure that the hosting job would be one of them. In any case, there has been no word on whether Ron and Don will be split up, but I can't imagine Don Cherry doing Coach's Corner without his good friend and co-host Ron MacLean.

To be honest, I'm torn on George Stroumboulopoulos being the host of Hockey Night in Canada. He has a very friendly interview style, but I can't see him challenging Gary Bettman like Ron MacLean has on occasion. He's a good interviewer, but I'm not sure he has the deep knowledge of hockey like MacLean does. He's definitely not an on-ice official like MacLean in his time away from the camera, so we're going to lose an official's perspective on the game when rolling through highlights and analyses.

To be fair, Stroumboulopoulos is younger and will certainly bring his legion of fans to the broadcasts. Perhaps he'll introduce a number of people to hockey through his delivery of the game, and gaining new fans is always important for both the broadcaster and the game. He seems to understand how to get people to open up when it comes to an interview even if the interview seems a little scripted. He has interviewed Gary Bettman before and things seemed to go well, so perhaps this decision is more about Sportsnet wanting to play nice with the NHL Commissioner in the early years of their business deal.

There were lots of people who lost their minds when Foster Hewitt handed the reins of calling the game exclusively to his son, Bill Hewitt, in 1958. Fans demanded Foster's call of the game, but they eventually relented as Bill became a very capable play-by-play guy. Ward Cornell hosted Hockey Night in Canada until 1971 when a young man by the name of Dave Hodge took over the hosting duties. People found Hodge to be a little rough around the edges, but Hodge was very knowledgeable and produced one of the most memorable moments in Canadian TV history when he called out the CBC for cutting away from a Montreal-Philadelphia playoff game going into overtime for a scheduled broadcast of The National news program.
Dave Hodge was fired moments after the broadcast went off the air. He is now one of the more recognizable faces at TSN, and he hasn't changed his style or his call-it-as-he-sees-it attitude on his show, The Reporters. And Foster Hewitt came back to the booth to call the 1972 Summit Series, so it's not like fans never heard from him again.

I guess what I'm saying is that change is inevitable. Change happens, and the necessity to change is brought on by a multitude of reasons in the broadcasting industry. Adding George Stroumboulopoulos to the CBC broadcasts of Hockey Night in Canada is a little unorthodox when Ron MacLean had been doing an admirable job, but change happens when new ownership takes over. If Ron MacLean isn't doing his normal duties next season and George Stroumboulopoulos struggles, changes may happen next season as well.

But people adapt. And I'm certain we'll all adapt regardless of who hosts Hockey Night in Canada going forward as Rogers' Sportnet calls the shots for the next four years with the CBC.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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