Sunday, 7 April 2013

Let's have Marcel Dionne replace Don Cherry on Hockey Night in Canada

 I saw Marcel Dionne on l'Antichambre a few days back, and I again wonder why the CBC and TSN are fascinated with grinders and muckers and goalies, and ex-Bruins, as their talking heads.  It's like they're addicted to them.

For grins, I discover that Marcel, a Hall of Famer, scoring champion and a former member of the '72 Team Canada (just learned this, he didn't play, but still...), lives in the Niagara region, running his restaurant/store and generally minding his own business.  The guy's French was a little rusty, but he's energetic, funny, he teased Michel Bergeron a couple of times, has tons of stories to tell, and is still involved in the game, by playing alumni games and through his collectables business.

So why the hell is he not working on hockey telecasts, either as a colour guy or a between-periods talking head?  It's amazing.  I'm not the first one to point it out, but the NFL telecasts are replete with HOF'ers and Super Bowl winners, while we endure Don Cherry, Mike Milbury, PJ Stock, and Greg Millen and his pinwheel.  Why is that?

The fifth all-time career points leader in the league isn't good enough to talk to us about hockey?  Because he played in LA?  Wouldn't he have tales to tell, about the wild 70's, and the Canadiens who would always lose in LA because they were too sunburned to play, and Broad Street Bullies and the mayhem they generated, and the stars in Hollywood?

On l'Antichambre, he explained that he put up at his house Luc Robitaille and Steve Duchesne when they were rookies in LA, and they had so much fun Jimmy Carson wanted to be 'adopted' too.  He explained that his kids loved Lucky Luc, and when the time came for the players' naps, the boys would nap right along with them, except they were rambunctious, and Marcel would sometimes not get a good sleep.  When they started asking if they could nap with Luc, Marcel found that he'd sleep better and play better that night, whereas Luc was off his game, so they started foisting the boys back and forth.

Mr. Dionne told another story about how very early, he told Steve and Luc to look at the other guys in the dressing room, and explained that if they hung out with the ten who went to the beach and hung out with starlets and enjoyed all LA had to offer, they'd had fun, but if they instead hung out with the other ten guys, they'd have long NHL careers.

Great stuff.  Insight.  History.  Colour.

Instead, we have to listen to the 'energetic' PJ Stock, standing atop his 5-goal corrupt-referee-aided sham of a career.

Honestly, I don't think that CBC does that bad a job televising games.  Their technical side is airtight, the camera shots and all the visuals are outstanding.  The opening montages are sometimes the highlight of the show.  What they need to do is clean house with the announcing staff, let go of the geezers who are past their primes, and re-energize the shows, with players who will add gravitas and authority to the broadcasts.  Gilbert Perreault is criminally underused.  Eric Lindros has opinions and can string two sentences together.  Wayne Gretzky may be too mild in his commentary, but surely there's a member of the Oilers dynasty available who could bring something to the broadcasts.  If you want some gritty player's angle, Clarke Gillies is a great storyteller, and as a member of the early 80's Islanders dynasty I grudgingly respect, worthy of our respect and attention.

Hockey and the NHL sometimes acts like the shiftless ne'er-do-well drunken brother of the major North American sports leagues family.  It's always whining that it needs to be taken seriously, and that it should take its place as an equal member in that group, never mind the comparatively low ratings and revenues.  One thing it could do to earn this respect is to start taking itself seriously, to respect itself, and to pressure their broadcast partners to do likewise and put an end to the goon dog-and-pony show.  Sure, some old regulars will howl at the loss of Cherry on their menu, but they're probably not the kind of clientele you want anyway if you're trying to run a classy joint.

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