Hockey Night in Canada ‘dream team’ opts for youth over diversity
For a while there, the rumour was that George Stroumboulopoulos would be replacing Ron Maclean as the cohost on Canadian institution, Coach's Corner.
That would have been incredible. Contrasting Don Cherry's loud suits with Strombo's fashionable, edgy look would have made it as much about fashion as hockey. And watching Cherry try to pronounce "Stroumboulopoulos" when he can't handle "Bieksa" would have been a treat.
But alas. On Monday, Rogers did not announce a change to the Coach's Corner format. That will remain the same. They did, however, roll out a new hockey "dream team" of NHL coverage anchors, featuring Cherry, Maclean, Darren Millard, and Jeff Marek, anchored by the aforementioned Stroumboulopoulos. From Rogers:
The team will deliver more than 500 regular season games across 13 networks and 7 platforms, including up to 7 games every Saturday night, plus “Hometown Hockey” every Sunday hosted from communities across Canada, and every game of the NHL Playoffs and Stanley Cup Final.
The announcement was made today by Scott Moore, President of Sportsnet & NHL Properties, Rogers.
“We know how passionate fans are about hockey, and so we’ve brought together the best anchors to deliver the best hockey experience to Canadians,” said Moore. “George is one of the smartest and most versatile broadcasters in the business, and Ron and Don are icons in the hockey world. Along with Daren and Jeff, our new broadcast team brings a tremendous amount of talent, expertise and personality – and most importantly, they all possess a supreme passion for hockey.”
Stroumboulopoulos will host Hockey Night in Canada on Saturdays. Marek will host Fridays. Millard will host Wednesdays.
Dream Team seems a bit of a misnomer, since Bob McKenzie remains at TSN, and he's such a natural, elite insider that he was still the first one on this news. And where the heck is Elliotte Friedman? The patience he's shown as the voice of reason on CBC's corresponding "nightmare team" -- so named because it's clearly Friedman's nightmare -- needs to be rewarded somehow.
But still, this is an interesting group, and we're excited to see how it works.
Stroumboulopoulos may be a bit of an unknown in America, despite efforts to the contrary -- nobody watched his CNN show -- but in Canada, he's a renowned interviewer, known mostly for his work on popular talk show "The Hour". (And before you criticize his dearth of experience, he did get his start in sports radio alongside Marek, so this isn't exactly Dennis Miller to ABC.)
What Stroumboulopoulos lacks in a sports experience, he makes up for in his ability to connect with audiences and interview subjects. Sitting down with Stroumboulopoulos has always seemed like sitting down with a really cool friend, and if you're trying to hook a younger demographic, he's a good get. Marek and Millard will help as well. All three men are in their 40s, which I imagine is pretty young to the people making the hiring decisions.
The group does raise questions, however.
First, how is Cherry going to handle being a member of a panel, and one where he's not the primary guy? He's not exactly known for waiting his turn, and while MacLean will still be there to Cherry-pick, so to speak, one wonders how much patience he'll have for Stroumboulopoulos's nuanced approach to, well, anything. This should be an entertaining dynamic.
And second, "dream team" tends to connote a more colorful group. The only diversity on display at the introductory panel was in the suits. (Marek's was taupe, as you can see.)
While the Stroumboulopoulos hire was clearly a bid to rein in the younger demographic, it's clear only one segment of that demographic was considered. It remains somewhat alienating to, say, non-white people and women.
Granted, looking at the assembled dream team, it's clear nobody from either minority has the resume these five men have. But I'd argue that this is the issue. While there may be no one ready to snag a spot in the Rogers' dream team and its starting lineup of five Chris Mullins, that's because it remains all too difficult to amass this resume unless you fit the profile.
There are more jobs to come, and no doubt some of those jobs will showcase a bit of diversity, but I want to see it on the dream team, and justifiably. The network has over a decade now to develop in-house talent, and it's clear that they need to ensure that there are opportunities in the future for that talent to look a little different than these five men.