Ron MacLean to replace Strombo on Hockey Night in Canada: Feschuk

Ron MacLean to replace Strombo on Hockey Night in Canada: 
By DAVE FESCHUKSports Columnist Sun., June 19, 2016
George Stroumboulopoulos was originally hired to draw younger viewers, but his ouster may mark a return to the show’s old ways.

George Stroumboulopoulos won’t return as host of Hockey Night in Canada next season, sources tell the Star. His replacement will be the man he replaced. Industry insiders say Ron MacLean is expected to return to the show’s No. 1 seat just two seasons after Stroumboulopoulos was hired with much fanfare in the wake of Rogers’ $5.2-billion acquisition of NHL broadcasting rights. Prior to that, MacLean occupied the job from 1986 until 2014. Since then, he has hosted Sunday night Hometown Hockey broadcasts and worked Saturdays alongside Don Cherry on Coach’s Corner. It’s expected he will continue those roles in addition to resuming the main HNIC hosting gig — the highest-profile position in Canadian sports broadcasting.

The ouster of Stroumboulopoulos marks a strategic about-face for Rogers, which sublicenses Hockey Night in Canada to CBC. In 2014, executives remade the iconic Saturday night show while speaking of the need to bring it to a younger demographic.
“We want to get a new breed of Canadian fans that get passionate about the games,” Scott Moore, president of Sportsnet and NHL properties, told reporters after Stroumboulopoulos’s hiring was announced in 2014. “I think George does that.”
Whether or not Stroumboulopoulos succeeded in luring in younger viewers, his presence didn’t do much for the show’s overall ratings, which have been lagging since he arrived. The reasons for that trend, of course, can hardly be laid at the feet of one on-air personality. It hasn’t helped that the ratings-driving Maple Leafs have struggled through a couple of seasons in which they finished 27th and 30th in the 30-team league, nor that this spring marked just the second time in the century-plus history of the NHL a Canadian team didn’t make the playoffs.
“If the Leafs won the Cup this year, would the focus be on George?” wondered one insider.
With his penchant for skinny suits and a resume that included time as a MuchMusic veejay and 10 years as host of a CBC TV talk show, Stroumboulopoulos was different by design. Moore embraced the new host’s uniqueness at his 2014 unveiling: “He’ll sort of be like that Sesame Street thing — one of these things is not like the others — but he’ll bring something different and his own unique take on hockey broadcasting,” Moore said.
But with ratings down, insiders say executives suggested to Stroumboulopoulos that he tweak his appearance to be less jarring to some mainstream eyes. A trip to the tailor for a more conventional wardrobe was on the list of polite requests.
“In George, they bought a well-established brand, and suddenly they wanted to change the brand,” said one insider.
Stroumboulopoulos, who maintains a foothold at CBC with his acclaimed Sunday-night rock radio show and busies himself with a varity of passions that include motorcycling, is admired by supporters for his fiercely independent streak. Sources say he didn’t appear to see the need for a makeover.
The imminent re-emergence of MacLean, an avowed hockey junkie with a seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of NHLers and their various family members, is hardly the broadcaster’s first recommitment to older ways. Earlier this month it was announced that Cherry, the 82-year-old star of Coach’s Corner, had signed a new multi-year contract. In the early days of the Rogers deal, Cherry wasn’t shy about complaining that his show had been marginalized. “You gotta pay attention to me, because I don’t get much time,” he complained on his show in November 2014.
The Rogers takeover brought with it an influx of new talent that also led to a reduction in the prominence of iconic play-by-play man Bob Cole, 82. This past season, though, saw Cole’s role increased to include assignments that continued into the conference finals.
Stroumboulopoulos, 43, did not respond to repeated messages seeking comment. In an email, MacLean, 56, said he remains committed to his roles on Coach’s Corner and Hometown Hockey, but said he could not comment on the upcoming season until his superiors “finalize their 2016-17 plans.”
One insider cautioned that, at a time of transition for the broadcaster — in April, Hockey Night in Canada production head Gord Cutler was let go and Rob Corte was put in charge — plans could change. In an email message on Sunday, Moore dismissed talk of next season’s lineup as “simply speculation.”
“(We) have not finalized our plans for next season as the current one is not over,” Moore wrote. “Once we have solidified our plans, I will be happy to comment.”
Star sports columnist Dave Feschuk is a regular contributor to TSN and TSN Radio

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