What’s Next For CBC

Jeremy Wiebe November 28, 2013 12
Ron and Don 2CBC

In my last post, I speculated what would happen to TSN, specifically their on-air talent after they were shut out of the latest TV contract that saw Rogers acquire the exclusive NHL broadcasting rights for the next 12 years at cost of $5.2 billion.

Now it is the CBC’s turn. Even though the public broadcaster will have NHL games on their network, they will be sub-licensing through Rogers, thus no advertising money will come the CBC’s way. What makes things even more dicey is that CBC is only guaranteed 4 years of NHL hockey under this agreement. Yes, the future of Hockey Night in Canada is in doubt. So what will happen to the people in front of the camera that are a big part of Saturday nights for most Canadians? Here’s my speculation.

Don Cherry:

Let’s start with the most famous and most controversial voice in all of hockey. Grapes has been with CBC since 1980, with his famous Coach’s Corner segment being the anchor of Hockey Night In Canada. His opinionated, brash and sometimes questionable views of the game have delighted and enraged viewers at the same time. Cherry does have allies at Rogers, specifically Scott Moore who is the president of broadcasting at Rogers. Moore was the one-time head of CBC sports and was known to have a good relationship with Cherry when with the corporation. John Shannon is another ally of Grapes. The former executive producer at HNIC, is now an analyst at Sportsnet and is a highly respected voice with Rogers. He and Cherry were great friends at CBC and Shannon would love the chance to work with Grapes again.

Cherry does have his detractors though. Most notably, Toronto Star columnist Damien Cox who works as an analyst at Rogers. Cox has been highly critical of CBC, specifically Cherry. One wonders how those two will work together as Cox will have a more prominent voice, now that hockey will be the featured program at Sportsnet. Personally, I think Cherry’s best days are behind him and it would be a time for him to leave the stage. He has nothing to prove anymore, and Rogers could start fresh with a new voice and new direction. But my gut feeling tells me Cherry will hang on for a little longer. But he will be on a tighter leash.

Ron MacLean:

The former weatherman from Red Deer, Alberta, has been the host of HNIC since 1987, and has become the leading voice of CBC sports. MacLean’s work with HNIC as well as the Olympics has garnered him accolades and awards from within the industry. MacLean will anchor CBC’s Olympic coverage in 2014 in Sochi and 2016 in Rio De Janeiro. Plus his chemistry with Cherry is legendary. No doubt, MacLean will stick around past 2018. In fact, look for him to become a Rogers employee, if Rogers decide to cut CBC loose after 2018.

Jim Hughson:

The lead play-by-play voice at HNIC, Hughson is a favourite of mine and a top voice in hockey. Hughson also has a history with Sportsnet, as he was the play-by-play voice for Sportsnet from 1998 to 2002 when Sportsnet had NHL rights. Hughson stayed on with Sportsnet in a regional role as he became the voice of the Vancouver Canucks. When CBC came calling in 2005, Hughson accepted but still did some essays and special reports for Sportsnet. Almost a sure thing to join Rogers, Hughson is safe and will have a job waiting for him.

Craig Simpson:

Hughson’s partner in the broadcast booth at CBC and Sportsnet, Simpson is the top colour commentator at HNIC who is also known to have some bite on his Twitter feed. While a solid analyst, Simpson does have detractors especially from Toronto and Vancouver fans who think he’s too critical on their teams. Still, he and Hughson work very well together and with their history at Sportsnet, it is most likely that Simpson will have a job at Rogers waiting for him alongside Hughson.

Glenn Healy:

Glenn Healy is awful. Whether it be a goalie or as an analyst, Healy is simply abysmal when it comes to anything hockey related. Sadly, networks seem to like him. Healy started at HNIC in 2000, before leaving for TSN in 2003. Healy returned to CBC in 2009, to be part of the studio panel, as well as the man between the benches akin to Pierre McGuire’s role at NBC. Healy brings nothing to the broadcast, except nonsensical musings about players that aren’t involved in the play or his rambling about his “legendary” exploits during his playing days. I want him gone, but I think Rogers will be dumb enough to hire the bozo.

PJ Stock:

The man who talks like he has marbles in his mouth, Stock brings absolutely nothing to the HNIC telecast. A mediocre player at best during his days with four different teams, Stock joined HNIC as a highlight guy in a booth that was separated from the rest of the crew. He became a full-time member of the panel in 2010 in which he spews arguments and rants that sound like fingernails on a chalkboard. Stock has also done work on Montreal radio and at RDS. I’d be surprised if Stock is back next season as the competition for jobs will become much stiffer.

Elliote Friedman:

The voice of reason on the HNIC panel, Friedman brings a sense of integrity and professionalism that is sorely lacking on the panel. Friedman has been with CBC since 2003, doing rinkside reporting as well as hosting CFL football for the corporation. Before that, Friedman was with The Score, covering a variety of sports such as basketball, baseball and NFL football. Friedman has come a long way since his Score days. He came off as a nervous, unsure reporter in the late 1990s, but quickly grew into a confident, mature journalist. He also is the creator of the fantastic “30 Thoughts” blog that is a must read material for any hockey fan. I’m hoping there is a place for Friedman at Rogers, but with the uncertain futures of Bob McKenzie, Darren Dreger and Pierre LeBrun, Friedman could be the odd man out.

Kevin Weekes:

Weekes is decent as a panelist but a terrible game analyst. There are times he sounds like he’s ready to break through and show everyone how good he can be, but he lets others talk over him and he tends to get pushed around by the terrible twosome that is Healy and Stock. Before joining the panel, Weekes worked as a colour commentator working alongside Mark Lee. That pairing was a nightmare for CBC, which prompted the move to the panel for Weekes. With competition for jobs now very high, Weekes is on shaky ground to maintain his spot.

Rick Ball:

A rising star in the making, Ball joined HNIC in 2011 mainly calling Winnipeg Jet games for the 2011-12 season on Saturday nights. CBC was impressed with his work, so Ball moved up and started calling the second half of the doubleheader, alternating with Mark Lee. The current radio voice of the Vancouver Canucks, Ball calls the game with fluidity and is always on top of the action. I would love to see Ball team up with Ray Ferraro on broadcasts next season. Ball would be a solid candidate for a job with Rogers next season.

Kelly Hrudey:

The most overrated member of the HNIC crew, Hrudey has been lauded by people within the industry for his work either as a studio analyst, or a colour commentator. I don’t feel the same way. Hrudey preens and poses for the camera far too often, while offering very little to the telecast in terms of strong hockey insights. Hrudey is well-liked by the CBC and does have other interests outside of hockey. But Rogers will probably  take a long look at Hrudey, and I could see the former Los Angeles King goalie staying on till 2018, when Rogers will have to make a decision. Stay tuned.

Mark Lee:

The ultimate CBC loyalist, Lee has been with the corporation in some form since 1984. The Ottawa native also has the distinction of being the last voice of the CFL on CBC, when he called the 2007 Grey Cup game, the final CFL game ever aired on CBC. Lee has survived many budget cuts and job layoffs the CBC has had to go through over the years, despite the fact is work is very underwhelming. When your most famous line is “Shuffling the Salad” to describe a line change, it isn’t something to be proud of. Lee’s future will be uncertain after the season though. He is so loyal to CBC that it could be detrimental to future employment with Rogers. Remember, Rogers will control all aspects of hockey coverage on CBC beginning next season. Lee’s time could be up, and he wouldn’t be missed.

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