Ron MacLean makes awkward apology after French-Canadian ref conspiracy theory

Ron MacLean

It’s been a while since we had a foot-in-mouth apology from Hockey Night in Canada’s Ron MacLean, but the venerable host felt it necessary to issue one after insinuating that French-Canadian referees would have the appearance of favoritism towards the Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

In case you missed it: Tampa Bay Lightning Coach Jon Cooper was “pissed” after their Game 3 loss because referee Francois Charron waved off an apparent goal due to goalie interference on forward Alex Killorn. “They deserved a better fate tonight,” he said of his players, before they were swept out of the playoffs in Game 4. 

During Tuesday night’s Game 4 broadcast on CBC, MacLean suggested that there shouldn’t be a French-Canadian referee working that Lightning vs. Canadiens game because Cooper felt that one in the previous game jobbed his team.

The Game 4 officials were Chris Lee and Francois St. Laurent, who we believe is Italian … no, wait, check that, he’s totally French-Canadian.

(And also the guy who allowed Ray Emery to pummel Braden Holtby earlier this season.)

From the CBC, MacLean’s take on the matter:

MacLean said the fact the NHL assigned another French-Canadian referee to officiate Game 4 was meant to send a message to Cooper.

MacLean’s view was challenged by fellow Hockey Night in Canada commentator Elliotte Friedman, who said it was “unfair” to suggest French-Canadian referees were partial to Montreal.

“So you’re saying there should never be a French referee in Quebec,” Friedman eventually asked MacLean.

“Just this time, after what happened in Game 3,” MacLean replied.


Naturally, MacLean went into full apology mode later in the evening.

So, for the record, it wasn’t like he was saying French-Canadian referees are in the tank for the Canadiens, he was just worried that Cooper and the Lightning would be upset with one in Game 4 because they believe French-Canadian referees are in the tank for the Canadiens.

And of course, MacLean would have said the same thing had the Lightning been playing Edmonton or Calgary and a referee from Alberta had made a controversial call, because who hasn’t heard tales of match-fixing from nefarious Albertan officials trying to push the Flames and Oilers to the Stanley Cup?

Wait, no one has? Oh …

Again, for the record: MacLean was worried about the perception of assigning a French-Canadian referee for the game immediately following one in which a French-Canadian referee made a controversial call. But it was just about Game 4. He’s TOTALLY cool with a French-Canadian referee working Game 5, 6 or 7, where we’re sure this issue wouldn’t come up at all if there was another controversial call.

Look, MacLean isn’t the first to believe the Canadiens get the benefit from French-Canadian referees. Please recall Peter Laviolette’s classic “Montreal Typical!” rant that was captured by “HBO 24/7”:

It’s always been out there. In a way, MacLean was simply parroting a theory others have shared in perpetuity. But if we’ve known anything about the CBC host, it’s that he’s in the referees’ bag more than a whistle, so naturally any inference that they’d play favorites would have to be redacted.

While we’re on the subject: Did we miss MacLean’s rant about the IIHF and the IOC assigning Canadian officials to the gold medal game against Sweden in Sochi?