It didn’t take long for fans of Hockey Night in Canada to turn on its new host, George Stroumboulopoulos. Even Habs fans, who had initially welcomed the sight of seeing a fan of their hockey team as host, are now having buyer’s remorse.
Now, I am willing to give Stroumboulopoulos a chance to show his stuff. I’ve said it before, if Rush Limbaugh or Dennis Miller can talk football (or if baseball guy Keith Olbermann can talk politics), why can’t Stroumboulopoulos do the same with hockey? Anyone who follows Stroumboulopoulos knows before he went to the Edge, MuchMusic, and CBC, he got his start working at CJCL in Toronto (better known as The Fan 1430/590 and now Sportsnet 590 The Fan). He has worked with current Sportsnet analysts Gord Stellick and Elliott Friedman while at the Fan so he is no slouch when it comes to sports particularly hockey.
I mentioned this before but one of the reasons I think Stroumboulopoulos was chosen to replace Ron MacLean as host of Hockey Night in Canada was because of his background in pop culture and politics. Over the years we’ve seen things like gay players, human rights, and other social issues infiltrate the sports discussion. I believe the bosses at Rogers hoped Stroumboulopoulos would bring that into his role as host of Canada’s premier hockey broadcast. But from what I have seen in the 2+ months into the 2014-2015 NHL season, Stroumboulopoulos has done very little of that. In fact, his predecessor has talked more about politics and pop culture during his time as host of Hockey Night in Canada than Stroumboulopoulos has.
Stroumboulopoulos is doing what any good host should be doing: asking questions, moderating debate, and steering the conversation. He is no hockey expert and he knows that. That is why you have guys like Nick Kypreos, Glenn Healy, and Kelly Hrudey on the panel explaining the ins and outs of hockey. There are others on the Hockey Night in Canada panel, and the Rogers NHL broadcast, namely those who write or used to write for newspapers, who should be shown the door first. It is going to take a Jian Ghomeshi-like stumble by Stroumboulopoulos before we see the axe fall on him.
So I would cut Stroumboulopoulos some slack. In my experience, it takes time for change to settle in. As long as he sticks to the subject, he will do just fine.