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Hockey Night in Canada personality Ron MacLean (Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail)
Hockey Night in Canada personality Ron MacLean (Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail)

USUAL SUSPECTS

Ron MacLean's hyperbole rings alarm bells Add to ...

When last we left Ron MacLean, the host of Hockey Night in Canada was linking the Hindenburg to Foster Hewitt and Martin Brodeur on an NHL playoff game in New Jersey last Sunday. No doubt pleased with contextualizing his intros, MacLean turned his inner History Channel to 9/11 as the Washington Capitals played host to the New York Rangers on Wednesday night.

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Having first said that, “It’s crazy to compare what the emergency responders did during that time,” MacLean went on to do just that, comparing hockey players to the heroes of that disaster in New York. “They are like police officers, they are like firefighters. You can’t fight fire with ego. The pain these men have faced, the price they keep on paying, the hearts they keep on lifting. It’s been through and through, five games in. See the commitment, they are ready to go again. … We all know about the firefighters, our worst day is their every day.”

The leap in logic between millionaire hockey players and the grunts of emergency work went over like, ahem, a lead balloon. MacLean was trending on Twitter for much of the evening and it wasn’t about his choice of tie. “Preposterous” and “inappropriate” were a few of the comments. This was no live gaffe, either, like MacLean’s scatological puns (“stool sample” and “down in the dumps”) with HNIC commentator P.J. Stock on Tuesday. MacLean and his producers had prepared the script in advance.

Thursday morning, CBC and MacLean requested a do-over. “I, like everyone on the planet in his or her lifetime, saw beyond the horror, the single greatest testament to the strength of the human spirit in the efforts of the first responders,” MacLean said in a prepared statement to clarify his thoughts.

“We never know if we’ll have that spirit. The bravery, the resilience. As I made clear, the hockey games in no way compare. However sports has proven a worthy training ground in nurturing the qualities which beget that spirit. To say he plays like a firefighter or a policeman would instantly conjure the traits an athlete most desires, especially in New York and Washington. There could be no higher praise of a player, no greater choice of a role model . But as I said of first responders, ‘Our worst day is their everyday.’ They stand alone.”

No doubt New York coach John Tortorella wants a re-do of Wednesday, too. But the Rangers coach doesn’t have the luxury of MacLean’s restatement. More germane, who’s producing these shows that MacLean can get to air with such twaddle? Is there no vetting of his script? He’s in a CBC headquarters in Toronto thick with suits. Surely there must be someone who can pass an eye over these scripts in advance. Instead CBC prefers to rewrite the script the next day. Strange.

Second team

With the playoffs taking a few days off till Game 7 on Saturday, it’s interesting to speculate upon whom CBC will anoint as the second broadcast crew for Round 3. HNIC had Bob Cole and Garry Galley doing its second series in Round 2, but it’s hard to see the 79-year-old Cole flying the many miles from his home in Newfoundland to do Games 4 to 7 of the Western final from Phoenix and Los Angeles.

Mark Lee and Kevin Weekes were the de facto No. 2 pairing this season, but a lot of readers told us they’d like to see Dean Brown, the Ottawa Senators’ voice, get a little love too.

Island hopping

While The Masters and U.S. Open get all the ink, many in golf will tell you the Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., this week is likely the most keenly contested. There are 49 of the top 50 players in the world on TPC Sawgrass’s Stadium course being followed by 49 cameras – 12 of them trained on the 17th hole, which has a diabolical island green. NBC executive producer Tommy Roy says there’s nothing quite like the stadium feel of the course

“From a television standpoint, having the energy of the crowd is crucial for it to translate to the people at home,” Roy told a conference call before the event. “When you think about watching, say, a Nationwide [Tour]event on television, and there’s not a lot of fans out there, and someone hits a great shot and you hear some quiet clapping, versus the Ryder Cup where you have four groups on the course and 10,000 people around every hole that they are playing. That’s why there’s so much energy and a good feeling about the event and it’s so fun to watch. … That also happens here on this golf course where every hole is built almost in the fashion of a stadium.”

Also helping is the restraint by advertisers. “It’s a producer’s dream to get the opportunity to broadcast this event,” Roy said. “The best of which is having limited commercial interruption. There are only four commercial breaks per hour, and each of them averages just a little over one minute.”

Tweet nothings

NBC golf analyst Sir Nick Faldo is not a fan of Ian Poulter’s Twitter habit. “Six weeks before [the Masters]he was tweeting everybody. It was a case of too much tweeting, too much going on in his life.… We all jumped in and said, ‘Go and practise.’ He’d even tweet, ‘I’m off to practise … I’m hitting a lot more balls.’ Just concentrate on your golf.”

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