Hockey Night in Canada , with Ron MacLean and Don Cherry at the forefront, is now officially absolutely awful. It has become a joke. I enjoyed working with Ron years ago. Today, he and Don Cherry have been allowed to become horrific caricatures. And the work they are doing is not suitable for a national network. Not even close.
This all came to a head yesterday evening, when I sat down to watch Game Five of the Canadiens/Flyers’ Eastern Conference Final. After a mind-numbingly predictable musical tease (the first video you see when the show goes on the air), I could not believe my eyes. MacLean was sitting in a rocking chair, on the ice at Wachovia Center, taping the blade of a hockey stick. Then he began reciting what sounded like a poem. Perhaps it was something he wrote. Perhaps it was something famous that I did not recognize. All the while, he was wrapping the black blade with white tape. I sat there, dumbfounded.
The purpose of an opening, to every live television sports producer who ever lived on this earth, is to set the scene for the game. Tell the viewer what the story is. How should they watch the story develop? What key aspects should they keep their eyes on? There is always precious little time to deliver this information – so it requires a great deal of thought and planning to present an opening befitting the scope and magnitude of the game we are about to watch. Simple, but complicated at the same time.
This game was huge. It would, possibly, determine which team would face the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2010 Stanley Cup Final. Now, in order to properly critique this disaster-of-a-rocking-chair fiasco, I should have watched it more than once. Just to make sure I saw what I thought I saw. But I couldn’t bring myself to. It was that absurd and obtuse. And the regular viewer only sees it once, so the point better be easy to grasp and process. At the end of MacLean’s piece, prior to the HNIC title animation, he stood up and long-windedly explained that, if they don’t win tonight, Les Canadiens would be spending their time in the chair. It’s apparent what they had in mind, but it missed any perceived mark by about a hundred miles.
And the Ron and Don segments continue to degrade into a bad YouTube video. During Saturday’s game, while Ron was interviewing Ken Dryden, the camera panned/drifted over to Cherry, sitting aimlessly in the dark of the studio. From where I was watching, I had no sound, but my guess is that Dryden was referencing Cherry and the oh-so-clever person who was directing the show thought this would be funny. It was moronic. If they wanted Cherry included in the segment, they should have had him wedge his ample ego out of his chair and get on-set.
Yesterday, MacLean decided that reading a newspaper, word for word with Cherry, while the paper was obscuring most of MacLean’s face would be good television. MY GOD! This is Canada’s flagship hockey show! Or it was!
Now it’s just a friggin’ joke!