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CBC's Hockey Night in Canada announcer Jim Hughson interviews Henrik Sedin after the Anaheim Ducks Vancouver Canucks pre-season game in Vancouver, BC September 25, 2010. Jeff Vinnick-The Globe and Mail (Jeff Vinnick/The Globe and Mail)
CBC's Hockey Night in Canada announcer Jim Hughson interviews Henrik Sedin after the Anaheim Ducks Vancouver Canucks pre-season game in Vancouver, BC September 25, 2010. Jeff Vinnick-The Globe and Mail (Jeff Vinnick/The Globe and Mail)

The Usual Suspects

Is CBC's Jim Hughson a Canucks' homer? Add to ...

"Take that, Ben Eager," CBC play-by-play announcer Jim Hughson exclaimed as the San Jose forward's penalties sabotaged the Sharks in Game 2 of the NHL Western Conference final against Vancouver.

Hughson was assuming the voice of Canucks retribution on the feisty Eager, a nice stylistic flourish. But it's led some outside Vancouver's orbit to question whether Hughson has been a little too in-sync with the feelings of the Canucks and their fans.

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After all, goes the thinking, if Bob Cole and Don Cherry can be pilloried outside Toronto for a perceived bias toward the Maple Leafs (Cherry boasts of his blue-and-white fandom), should the same standard not be applied to the No. 1 play-by-play voice of Hockey Night in Canada?

Hughson's a British Columbia boy, born and bred in Fort St. John. He lives in Vancouver and has broadcast the Canucks games in the past.

Guilty as charged? Well, Hughson is naturally animated and well-prepared for all NHL games we hear him broadcast. It's also fair to say that, as a local, Hughson is fully cognizant of the Canucks' odyssey to become the first Canadian-based team to win the Stanley Cup since 1993. As the voice of the only Canadian team left in these playoffs, he doesn't have to worry about balancing the neurotic sensibilities of Canucks fans against, say, Calgary or Ottawa's angst.

As such, you're hearing a lot of Vancouver story lines from Hughson, as well as CBC sidekicks Craig Simpson and Glenn Healy.

On Sunday, for instance, Healy put Vancouver's erratic goalie, Roberto Luongo, on notice, even though San Jose's Antti Niemi has been more sieve-like. The criticism of the Sedin twins by Hughson and Simpson in the first two playoff rounds was unvarnished - although some might say the disdain for the Swedes' stumbles betrayed a little too much caring.

For all his efforts, a sense of satisfaction creeps into Hughson's tone as Vancouver has advanced - witness the Eager comment.

Would it be the same for another Canadian team?

Hughson did not work the 2010 Montreal Canadiens-Philadelphia Flyers Eastern Conference final so we have no recent reference point for him. But who better knows what the Canucks' march means to his neighbours and friends in B.C.?

That empathy strengthens the broadcast. So, in the court of Usual Suspects, Hughson gets an absolute discharge on the accusation of Vancouver bias. Shoot us.

TOTAL RECALL

Since Don Cherry believes no one remembers his words, let us help him out.

"We are the cleanest sport in the world," Cherry thundered in November of 2005, when Dick Pound, then-chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency, talked openly of drug use in the NHL.

Perhaps Cherry would like to square his statement in 2005 with the toxicology report on NHL player Derek Boogaard, who died this month of a fatal mix of the painkiller oxycodone and alcohol.

Or does Cherry consider Boogaard an exception? Then, he needs to talk to people such as Brantt Myhres, a former NHLer who went through the league's rehab program five times - often beside the biggest names in the game, such as Bob Probert, who died of a heart attack last year at 45.

Myhres, who is now clean, is helping start Greater Strides Hockey Academy in Cochrane, Alta., to help native youth avoid the drug problems he faced in his career. He can set The Suit straight on the realities of an NHL problem slightly worse than screening the goalie.

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