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Volume 91, Issue 35

Thursday, October 30, 1997



MacLean is no Cherry-picker but he knows his hockey

©Photo courtesy of CBC
I'M TELLING YOU RON, I HATE THOSE DARN SAMUELSSONS! A familiar sight for all Canadians (especially those glued to bar stools) is the weekly installment of Coach's Corner, hosted by Ron MacLean and Don Cherry.

The Gazette's Alex Chiang had an opportunity to gab with one of Canada's top sportscasters and hockey connoisseurs, Ron MacLean. MacLean, in his 11th season as the anchor of the CBC's ever-popular Hockey Night in Canada telecast, provides some sober second thoughts to heated conversations with Don Cherry on Coach's Corner during the first intermission. He resides in Oakville, Ontario, but tonight at 6 p.m. he will be spending his dinner hour speaking his mind at The Spoke.

"How would you describe your relationship with Don Cherry?"
MACLEAN: "Grapes doesn't like me telling people that we're friends because it sort of ruins our act. We're similar in that both of us are small town guys who have pointed tongues and like to start trouble. Both of us like to jab at people when they're high and to pump them up when they're down. He definitely sees things as black and white whereas I'm usually in the grey, so maybe that's where our opposites attract."

"What do you think of your job?"
MACLEAN: "I love it. I think it was John Madden who said the greatest joy is that you're going to the game. Coley [play-by-play announcer Bob Cole] says that the game's the thing, but the show's the thing too; so you do have to know where to draw the line between having fun and getting the job done."

"Where were you raised?"
MACLEAN: "I was born in Zweibrucken, Germany in 1960 and when I was 14 months old, my family and I moved to Canada. My dad was a communications officer in the air force so we moved around all over the country. When I was 10, we moved to Red Deer, Alberta where I finished high school."

"How did you get into broadcasting?"
MACLEAN: "A strange chain of events got me into it. A local radio station called CKRD hired high school kids to push buttons and they let a couple of the more reliable ones spin records. So, I got into disk jockeying and after my third year there, I started reporting the news and weather. Eventually they asked me to become the sports anchor, which I was hesitant about because sports was my passion outside of work and I thought that if I took the job, I would become a very boring person. Then in 1984, I started doing [Calgary] Flames broadcasts with a station that was equivalent to CHCH [ON TV] here in Ontario."

"Did you have aspirations to become a professional hockey player?"
MACLEAN: Oh yeah, I was just like every kid, but in grade 12 I realized I wasn't going to make it so I opted to referee instead of playing on my high school team."

"Do you think the CIAU can be a developmental program for the NHL?"
MACLEAN: "Well it's a good opportunity for hockey players. I think it's bad that with the 18-year-old draft, people assume that kids' careers are over at age 19 or 20. Mike Johnson of the Toronto Maple Leafs is a prime example. He played tier hockey in Michigan and he made it. Then there's Mike Ridley and [ex-Mustang] Steve Rucchin who probably the two most extreme cases for CIAU players.

"What's your view on NHL expansion?"
MACLEAN: "I don't buy into the argument that the league is out-distancing the talent pool. With players coming from the former communist block countries and Europe, there's still plenty of talent entering the league. The problem is the schedule – the longer it is, the more it wears out the players. I don't care if it expands leaps and bounds in the U.S., as long as they don't mess with the elements of the game – which they're starting to do now. Baseball hasn't changed in 100 years so why should hockey?"

"Do you think an NHL franchise could survive outside of North America?"
MACLEAN: "I think the Europeans are hesitant to go away from their existing system. They tried a super-league there and it didn't work out, so I don't know if the demand is there yet and if Europeans are ready to embrace an NHL team."

"Do you think the NHL should be allowed to send its players to the Olympics?"
MACLEAN: "I like the idea, but at the same time I realize it'll hurt the development program. I think all the best players in the world deserve to play for their country. The thing I'm worried about is it's such a thrown-together event with players getting only a couple of practices together."

"What's your assessment of the crease rule?"
MACLEAN: "I hate it. It was the marshed peg that did it because players aren't scared of driving the net anymore. It's ridiculous that players aren't penalized if they stand in the crease, but only if they're doing it when a goal is scored and it's an absolute travesty when too many beautiful goals get disallowed."

"What's your take on fighting in hockey?"
MACLEAN: Society nowadays hates codes of honour like initiation rights. As a strictly social behaviour, players see it as the least-worst of the evils, as opposed to hitting from behind and dirty stick-work. I don't like it when it's perpetrated, but the biggest asset is it tames the game when one player is able to keep everyone else in line.

To Contact The Sports Department: gazsport@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright © The Gazette 1997