Death of a Sportscaster
A few weeks ago, I had a meeting with a high-ranking Canadian TV sports executive.
I've already been black-balled by Canadian network television for, in the words of another exec I once worked for, being "too opinionated" and "hurting our brand" by critiquing events such as the Olympics and teams like the Blue Jays and Leafs. ("What does that leave me?," I asked the big boss man," Ripping the high school girl's volleyball team down the street?")
Anyway, having nothing to lose, I offered up an opinion on the current state of the Canadian TV sports industry.
"I've got no respect for the business any more," I said, "because it's obvious TV sports executives don't have any respect for it."
In other words, there's a good bet my balls will continue to be painted black.
But the latest example of the lack of respect I referred to?
Word that George Stroumboulopoulos is about to be named as the new "Hockey Night in Canada" host under the new Rogers NHL empire. (And yeah.....good luck to Don Cherry wrapping his tongue around that handle, as Grapes has enough trouble pronouncing Dion Phaneuf.)
Apparently Ron MacLean, Cherry's long-time sidekick, will stay on in a reduced role. But the guy I really feel sorry for is my old Rogers Sportsnet buddy Daren Millard. I worked for over ten years at Sportsnet with Daren; a dedicated hockey guy and a very talented broadcaster. However, now that Rogers lands the big show, Millard gets the big snub. Sure, he'll still have a place on the broadcasts, as Rogers is spending $5.2 billion over 12 years to offer NHL action on a myriad of platforms. But it's typical of how shallow Canadian TV sports has become; putting more importance on making a big splash than rewarding solid broadcasters who have paid their dues.
When TSN was awarded the big NHL contract a number of years ago they also decided to go "outside the box" for their new host, hiring a female broadcaster from...wait for it...The Weather Network.
How did that work out?
Well, Linda Freeman was so bad during rehearsals she never made it to opening night. Instead, TSN was forced to pull James Duthie off its football broadcasts to jump into the NHL gig at the last minute. Duthie, of course, is an experienced and solid broadcaster and.....surprise, surprise...he proved to be a big hit.
Now, Strombo (my fingers are already tired from banging out his regular moniker) is obviously a talented guy and there's no chance of him folding in rehearsals. But his "Hockey Night" hiring sends a terrible message to Canadian sportscasters. For instance, I know a guy who has been paying his dues by doing play-by-play on junior hockey games way up in the hinterlands of Northern Alberta.
But the sad truth?
He'd be better off grabbing a job on The Weather Network, or becoming a MuchMusic VJ like our buddy Strombo. Speaking of weather, much is always made of Ron MacLean landing his "Hockey Night in Canada" post after starting out as a TV weather man in Red Deer, Alberta. A nice story, but there's a lot more to it than that. MacLean was also part of the radio broadcasts for the junior hockey Red Deer Rustlers, he's a veteran amateur hockey referee, and he honed his skills hosting Calgary Flames telecasts before moving to HNIC.
Strombo, on the other hand?
Well, he once worked as an intern at The Fan 590 in Toronto and, oh yeah.....he's a big Habs fan.
But, hey! Strombo also has his own talk show where this week he's scheduled to interview "Breaking Bad" star Aaron Paul about his new movie.
The bad news in the Canadian TV sports industry?
That's apparently good enough reason to hire Strombo as the new host of "Hockey Night in Canada".
And as I told Blue Jays TV host Jamie Campbell, another old Sportsnet pal, he'd better be careful. The way the biz is going if Ian Hanomansing suddenly develops a hankering for baseball, Jamie could be out of a job.