June 15, 2006
MacLean sounds like a broken record
By MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press
It's over. Time to move on. Let it go Ron MacLean.
The old NHL is gone, buried. May it rest in peace.
MacLean, host of Hockey Night in Canada -- we emphasize the word host -- has been apoplectic since the NHL has cleaned up its game, made it better and allowed skilled players the chance to play.
He's continually stated support for the old style of play -- the clutching, grabbing, obstruction -- and constantly refers back to his tenure as a referee on how the game should be called.
Barf bags anyone?
We can only hope after a bizarre between-period argument with Colin Campbell, the NHL's director of hockey operations, MacLean finally has it out of his system because he's beaten this thing to death.
Campbell made an appearance because of MacLean and cohort Don Cherry's constant slagging of the way the NHL is being called.
MacLean has become especially obsessed with revisiting the same points over and over again. He grew angrier as the season progressed, no doubt realizing he was spitting into the wind and most people involved in the game either accepted the new style or, more likely, loved the new game. Anyone with open eyes and minds was willing to accept the fact the game in general was better.
Some may call MacLean's performance passionate. In truth, it was over the top.
MacLean is a host. He's supposed to be a moderator and interviewer. No one has a problem with a host with an edge, but he has to know when enough is enough. MacLean's job is to extract information, direct proceedings and keep the show moving.
From the moment Campbell came on, it was obvious MacLean was determined to confront him. It was quite a change from the soft-toss MacLean, who had babied the Canadian Olympic hockey team and Wayne Gretzky in Turin.
Here in front of MacLean was Campbell, the man who represented so much of what MacLean now hates about the game and he wasn't going to let him go without trying to embarrass him.
Ask pointed questions but don't try and embarrass a guest on national television because it makes it looks like you have an axe to grind. If you continually badger someone, it makes you look petulant.
To Campbell's credit, he kept his cool, often looking at MacLean like he'd grown a second head.
Most peculiar was MacLean's opinion that Edmonton Oilers goalie Dwayne Roloson would not have been hurt if this was the old NHL.
Caroline Hurricanes forward Andrew Ladd was pushed into Roloson by an Oiler defenceman and MacLean was making the point that if the defenceman had been allowed to hook, hold or grab Ladd, this wouldn't have happened.
You figure that one out.
When Campbell indicated they wanted a better game, MacLean snapped: "We had a great game."
Tell that to the hundreds of players who complained about it. MacLean said there should be no players on the competition committee because all they want is an offensive game. He talked about players "making a mockery of the game" and cheating.
Imagine that, players wanting to be able to skate, shoot and handle the puck. Players with skill wanting to be able to use it. Players wanting hockey to be played the way it should be played.
Can't have the people who play the game decide what's good and bad. Nope. Leave that to guys in front of a television camera.
MacLean has had his say -- before, during and after games. It's a rare broadcast when he hasn't had something to say. He's been given lots of leeway, but the confrontation with Campbell put it over the top.
Hockey Night in Canada has analysts and commentators to criticize and confront. If MacLean wants to do that, then he should consider asking them to change his assignment.
Until then, he's a host. He should act like one.