MacLean, CBC sign long-term deal

, Last Updated: 7:52 PM ET

TORONTO — Ron MacLean is here to stay at “Hockey Night In Canada.”

The sports broadcaster signed a seven-year contract with CBC Sports on Monday, matching the length of the network’s new broadcast agreement with the NHL.

Scott Moore, executive director of CBC Sports, sought the long-term deal with MacLean to secure a bedrock for the broadcasts as the transition from one generation of play-by-play announcers to another is made in the coming years.

“I wanted symbolically to say, ‘Hockey Night in Canada’ is on the CBC for the next seven years and Ron MacLean is going to be there the whole time,” Moore said.

Don Cherry, star of the popular first period intermission segment Coach’s Corner with MacLean, may be a part of things for a while yet, too. His contract expires after the season but he remains in the long-term vision.

“I have said to Don that we’ll talk in a little while,” said Moore. “I want to keep Don as long as he wants to go and as long he feels he’s making a relevant contribution.

“I’m treating him like a thoroughbred: I’m going to ride him until his leg breaks and then I’m going to shoot him.”

Getting this deal done was much easier than the last time the two sides negotiated a contract. The CBC halted talks with MacLean back in 2002 and the back-and-forth between them made headlines for days until an agreement was reached.

“A negotiator should be like a referee, you shouldn’t even notice them,” said Moore. “It was a very, very easy negotiation.

“Ron was terrific, he wants to be with us long-term, he’s the face of ‘Hockey Night in Canada’ as was proven in the last negotiation. Fans love him.”

MacLean joined the CBC in 1986 and took over as national host of “Hockey Night in Canada” a year later. He’s also hosted Olympics, Commonwealth Games, the IAAF world track and field championships and the Calgary Stampede, among other events.

“Don Cherry must have broken a mirror this summer … I’m back for seven years,” MacLean said in a statement. “The term of the deal is not at all about security — that would be settling in, playing it safe.

“It was each of us showing our eagerness to take the opportunity of the new NHL deal, to try and do telecasts that go beyond just informing and entertaining, and instead really hitting you in the heart and head with a feeling you can’t get anyplace else.”

Meanwhile, “Hockey Night in Canada” analyst Harry Neale is leaving the Toronto Maple Leafs’ regional broadcasts to join the Buffalo Sabres announcing crew.

Former NHL goaltender Greg Millen replaces Neale on the Leafs’ broadcasts. Neale will continue to work for “Hockey Night in Canada” with longtime play-by-play partner Bob Cole.

“I think it’s great deal for him,” said Moore.

17:19ET 01-10-07


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