There seems to be a lot of pride swallowing in the offices of Rogers Communications this past week. Sportsnet President Scott Moore announced that Ron MacLean will return as host of Hockey Night in Canada after a two-year absence. Mind you, MacLean was not entirely exiled to the broadcaster’s dog house. He was hosting Hometown Hockey and still serving as Don Cherry’s sidekick on Coach’s Corner. But ever since George Stroumboulopoulos took over the hosting duties of Hockey Night in Canada in 2014, there seemed to be a void left on television screens across the country.
Some will point to the lack of Canadian teams in the playoffs resulting in low ratings as a key factor in the decision to put MacLean back in the host’s chair. But I, as you all know, have a different and more accurate take. Those in charge may have been born in Canada or once played hockey as a kid but they really had no clue as to who watches Hockey Night in Canada. It is not the so-called millennials, it is your regular Joe and Jane who have a job, family, mortgage, etc..
MacLean is not just a recognizable face. There is something about him that resonates with the average Canadian. MacLean knows hockey but it goes beyond that. You have a guy who thinks the same way we do. It is that connection that makes you want to trust MacLean with your life.
What this also tells me that sports fans don’t care much about social problems. They are concerned about things like the environment and domestic violence but that is not why they tune in to watch hockey, baseball, football, et al. As I have mentioned before in another piece, Stroumboulopoulos was brought on to inject more pop culture and politics in to the show. To his credit he stayed away from those two things during his two-year tenure. But it seems that wasn’t enough for him to connect with the Canadian hockey fan. Even younger viewers respect the past. They know full well that you do not kick pioneers to the curb.
While all seems right again in the hockey universe, not everyone is happy that MacLean is back as host. Wannabe political pundit Keith Olbermann recently ripped Moore about the decision.
Olbermann is also Donald Trump’s biggest critic. As they say, just sayin’.
So everything old is new again, at least as far as having MacLean back is concerned. But Sportsnet still has one big hurdle to overcome, and that is trying to pry the original Hockey Night in Canada theme from TSN.