Hunter miffed with broadcasters

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:44 AM ET

London Knights co-owner and general manager Mark Hunter wants two members of the Rogers Television hockey broadcast team replaced.

If they aren't removed by Friday, Hunter said, it will affect negotiations for the renewal of broadcast contracts for next season.

Rogers broadcasts most Knights home games. Hunter met with local station manager Mike Patterson yesterday and demanded between-period host Brent Lale and play-by-play man Leigh Cunningham be removed because they don't show enough support for the hometown Knights.

"I'm not happy with those two guys and I want them replaced," Hunter said.

"I'm not unhappy (with the production.) I'm unhappy with the broadcasters. It's been building and it reached the top with the Dave Bolland suspension."

Hunter didn't isolate a particular comment or situation.

"I don't like how they're dealing with the London Knights. I see other broadcasts around the league, see how much they support their team. The other night in Owen Sound, (I saw) how much they defended the Attack. From our side, (Lale and Cunningham) go the other way."

"It's been building up, just general stuff," Hunter continued. "Then the Bolland incident. That's enough. I don't want them to rip the league, but there's a side to each story. They just went (with) the one side. There's two sides."

The third member of the broadcast team is colour analyst Rick Doyle. Hunter didn't ask for Doyle to be replaced.

"Put it this way. He's an ex-Knight. I'll give him some leeway," Hunter said.

Hunter doesn't believe he can do anything to prevent Friday's telecast of Game 5 of the Knights-Attack OHL Western Conference semifinal.

"I had it out with Mike Patterson today," Hunter said. "I said I don't want to see them do it Friday. The ball's in their court. If they don't deal with it, we'll be dealing with it in the summer."

Patterson said there will be no changes.

"I thanked Mark for his opinion and expressing it to me. I certainly value how he sees the world," Patterson said. "But where casting is concerned, it's a function of Rogers Television and with all due respect to Mark, I'll have to make the call on whether or not the people who populate our on-air program continue to do so."

The Knights games are also broadcast on radio station CJBK. Like Rogers, the Knights allow the broadcasts and in return the broadcast company receives free tickets for giveaways, on-ice advertising and other considerations. The Knights receive no money for the TV or radio broadcasts.

"It's a reciprocal agreement," Knights assistant general manager Jim McKellar said. "They get three hours of quality content. It mutually promotes television, radio, the Ontario Hockey League and the London Knights."

As such, Hunter believes the local broadcasters, including the radio station, should be boosters of the hockey club. He indicated if he didn't believe CJBK's Mike Stubbs and Pete James were positive enough, he'd ask that they also be replaced.

"We don't want them to go overboard," Hunter said. "But you see other cities, all they do is praise their team. We're not hearing enough of it (on Rogers). We have a good bunch of kids here. I want to hear them praised. I want to hear good things about Bolland, about Robbie Schremp. I'm just not hearing it."

Lale was surprised when told Hunter was looking to have him and Cunningham replaced.

"Really?" Lale said. "I knew something was up (Monday), but I thought he was joking. He said he was going to (Mike Patterson) to say he wants no one to do the games unless they're homers."

Lale said Hunter was "super (po'd) at the Owen Sound broadcast team because they were biased toward Owen Sound and ripping on the Knights. I told Mark we're professionals. We call the game down the middle, whether you're winning or not.

"I worked hard for nine years to be the best I can be."

Lale has been with Rogers seven years, six of them hosting the broadcasts. Cunningham, after a stint as radio play-by-play man with the now-defunct North Bay Centennials, has been with Rogers five years.

Patterson supports his broadcast crew.

"I stand behind everything they do. They're an outstanding group and work hard to do a good job."


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