SUN Hockey Pool

No big changes slated for HNIC

IAN BUSBY -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:28 AM ET

A new dawn may be rising in the NHL but one thing is becoming clear: Hockey Night in Canada will never change as radically as the league it broadcasts.

So all those traditionalists out there don't fret. With all the rule changes, player movement and shifts in the economic landscape, the signature night for Canadian hockey will remain largely the same.

The main addition to HNIC will be play-by-play voice Jim Hughson, who will call the western portion of the weekly doubleheader. That hiring won't be a shock to viewers as Hughson has called games for more than two decades and will still be the voice of the Vancouver Canucks on Rogers Sportsnet.

Other than Hughson replacing the fired Chris Cuthbert -- who quickly landed with TSN for hockey and football -- the only other change for CBC this season will be a feature called Think Hockey, a skill development segment.

HNIC executive producer Joel Darling doesn't want to tinker with the product too much. All the talk about miked-up players, in-game interviews and helmet cameras won't force him into altering the brand.

"It's interesting because the same question comes up every year about what we're doing differently," said Darling via conference call. "There seems to be more of a want for a change than we're interested in.

"I'm happy with the features we have, whether it's Coach's Corner or Hotstove. Those are the things we want to continue to do. Every season, we look at little things. I don't want to make massive changes. I don't think we need them.

"There's certain things we'll do to raise emotion. There's a lot of different things we could do but all we can do is what we think is best. It certainly starts with our talent and our commentators we have in the broadcast."

HNIC host Ron MacLean will leave behind a season where he introduced movie night on

Saturdays. Although the spring was the toughest to live through with no playoff action, MacLean did enjoy some of the lost season.

Each weekend MacLean travelled to a different part of the country, getting a close-hand look at grassroots hockey while hosting the movies. He realized there might not be an NHL contest that night but there was no shortage of passion about the game.

"There was a lot of great times with kids around small towns in Canada, so that was a blessing in all of this," MacLean said. "I'm not a movie guy -- even though I love movies -- I was way out of my depth."

Hughson will be a busy man this season. With about 24 Saturdays booked up HNIC, the

48-year-old broadcaster will also continue with 45 regional Canucks games. He also has another show on Sportsnet called Snapshots. But for the first time in Hughson's NHL career, he will still be calling games late into the Stanley Cup playoffs.

"After 20-plus years working in the private industry, I've always had the main course and never get dessert," said Hughson. "It will be nice to stick around for the most exciting games."

WEEKEND HIGHLIGHT

The drama is gone but the NHL Entry Draft will still be worth watching. TSN has all the action and reaction of Pittsburgh stepping up and calling the name of Sidney Crosby. There will be real suspense as to who will someday be the answer to the trivia question: When Crosby was taken first, who was second. The TSN crew will be on site, including host James Duthie and the panel of Gord Miller, Pierre McGuire and Bob McKenzie:

* Tomorrow, 10 a.m., TSN

CLASSIC REPLAYS

If the Stampeders lose Friday night at B.C. Place, fans might want some quick revenge. Tune into the 1983 Grey Cup, which was also played in Vancouver, and witness the Lions going down in defeat to the Toronto Argonauts. The one-point Argos victory made for one exciting contest, which can be relived on ESPN Classic Canada:

* Tomorrow, 10 a.m.

* YOU JUST HAD TO SEE IT

For once in his career, Gary Bettman's awkward pausing and over-emphasized way of speaking was a benefit. The NHL draft lottery could have been the most rivetting 30 minutes on television this calendar year and the TSN crew was on the ball every step of the way. As host of the experts' panel, Gord Miller had probably the best quip, saying that hockey has so many superstitions "I've heard of general managers ordering their wives to go to church last night to light a candle." After Sidney Crosby went to the Pittsburgh Penguins, Anaheim GM Brian Burke joined the panel but Bob McKenzie had to admit the right team won. "It seems like the lottery machine actually had a conscience in this case ... the needy just got rewarded."


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