Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Sources say Rogers Media is looking to bring back Ron MacLean as the host of Hockey Night in Canada.

Chris Young/The Canadian Press

A plan to return Ron MacLean to the host's chair at Hockey Night in Canada, which might have seemed nearly impossible not long ago, sheds new light on the influence professional sports leagues enjoy with their broadcasting partners.

Though there are numerous details to be ironed out before a deal can be sealed, Rogers Media, which owns Sportsnet and holds the NHL's national broadcast rights in Canada, is looking to replace current host George Stroumboulopoulos after two years on the job, bringing back his predecessor, MacLean, a proven and familiar presence on the program.

Before the switch could proceed, a source says, Rogers sought and received the approval of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, who signalled during the Stanley Cup final he wouldn't oppose the move.

Story continues below advertisement

Rogers struck a landmark 12-year, $5.2-billion deal with the NHL in late 2013, giving the communications giant sweeping hockey broadcast rights, but as Canadian teams have struggled on the ice, so have ratings on television.

Multiple sources agreed that Rogers would have run the move by Bettman, while one person with knowledge of the company's relationship with the NHL said it would have been an informal courtesy, rather than a contractual obligation. Even so, with a decade left on the contract, the power Bettman would wield in his response is considered very real, especially as a fractious relationship with MacLean was believed to have contributed to Rogers's decision to turn to the younger, hipper Stroumboulopoulos two seasons ago.

Asked on Monday whether Rogers would have to consult with Bettman or the NHL to get its agreement before changing hosts on Hockey Night in Canada – informally or contractually – Scott Moore, president of Sportsnet and NHL properties at Rogers, replied in an e-mail, "We are not commenting on the speculation at all at this time."

Neither Bettman nor NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly responded to requests for comment.

Three sources said the approach to Bettman would likely have been made by either Moore or Rick Brace, president of Rogers Media. Brace is known to have a good rapport with Bettman.

A broadcast source who knows all of the principals and has dealt with Bettman over television contracts said, in practice, it is common for TV networks to float their choices for major positions, like Hockey Night host, with the league – its partner in a multi-billion-dollar pact.

Industry insiders agree Rogers must feel a compelling need to shake up the program, likely in response to audience testing. Both Bettman and Rogers CEO Guy Laurence were widely believed to be supporters of Stroumboulopoulos and his work on Hockey Night – at least in the early stages. The rumours of a wider shakeup, possibly including job cuts as soon as next week, have left many Rogers and Sportsnet employees feeling uneasy.

Story continues below advertisement

With billions of dollars changing hands each year for the rights to air live sports that are – in the eyes of many – the surest bet to attract viewers in a shifting TV industry, broadcast executives and league officials must balance the need for independent coverage with an interest in working together to maximize each side's return on their investment.

"A big part of the broadcast is the talent, and ultimately, the leagues may not have significant input, let alone veto power. But I do believe there are discussions," said Tom Richardson, president of Convergence Sports & Media and a professor of sports management at Columbia University, who has worked for the NHL and NFL. "There are very few surprises that are sprung on each other in that world. … So is it conceivable that [Rogers] conferred with the NHL? I think that happens sometimes."

MacLean's on-air clashes with Bettman during periods of NHL labour unrest are well documented. But he is hardly the only high-profile sports broadcaster to run afoul of league executives. Commentator Bill Simmons was suspended from ESPN, which has an eight-year, $15.2-billion (U.S.) rights deal for Monday Night Football with the National Football League, for calling league commissioner Roger Goodell a "liar" in 2014. Simmons ultimately left the network.

Conversations with members of Rogers staff, all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity, reveal there is concern that MacLean could once again wield the behind-the-scenes power over Hockey Night as many believed he did when the CBC produced the program. MacLean, who declined comment, has protested in the past that this was perception more than reality.

A return to MacLean could be seen as a safe bet for Rogers, and a concession to longstanding, diehard viewers who complained about the new format led by Stroumboulopoulos. Yet a key lingering question, should the switch be confirmed, is whether MacLean would be any less strident this time around, and how he might interact with Bettman on air.

Stroumboulopoulos has not responded to requests for comment.

Story continues below advertisement

Ever since Rogers sealed its 12-year deal, company executives have talked repeatedly about their strong partnership with the NHL.

In a May 2015 interview, Laurence said his staff and the league's are in touch "daily" to share data and iron out logistical issues, but added, "to be clear, that's not because they sit in some kind of policing role."

In a separate interview that same month, Bettman said: "We don't try to exercise editorial control."

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the authors of this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies