MacLean leaves Hockey Night in Canada
The Globe and Mail
TORONTO (CP) - Hockey Night in Canada has a gaping hole to fill following Monday's announcement that host Ron MacLean would not be back after 17 years with CBC Sports.
As the straight man to Don Cherry on Coach's Corner and host of the media panel in the Hot Stove Lounge segment, MacLean was the face of CBC's Saturday night NHL show as well as a integral part of the network's Olympic Games coverage.
But Nancy Lee, the CBC's head of sports, said her department was unable to reach an agreement on a new contract with MacLean.
``We made an offer, we had discussions on Friday and again (today) and it wasn't accepted,'' said Lee, who added she was surprised an agreement couldn't be reached with MacLean.
``I am and I'm very disappointed by it. As of last week I wouldn't have said that we couldn't reach a deal.''
MacLean, represented by NHL super agent Don Meehan, was reportedly looking for $600,000 a year in his new deal after earning $400,000 a year in his old contract.
``It was not a substantial raise. It was a raise,'' MacLean told CBC Newsworld in Calgary. ``I honestly absolutely don't believe money was at the root of why it was rejected.''
Lee would not go into details about the negotiations.
``I think money played a part in it,'' said Lee. ``It was a gap in the expectations and that's the No. 1 thing that kept us from reaching an agreement.
``Offers go back and forth. At the end of the day, the offer that the CBC put forward, that was the offer that Ron was unable to accept.''
When CBC unveiled the look of its revamped Hockey Night in Canada in September, MacLean was part of a conference call with executive producer Joel Darling and at the time both were confident a new contract agreement would be reached.
HNIC now has less than two weeks to replace MacLean with its season opener set for Oct. 12. Lee said the search will begin Tuesday.
``We have excellent talent that work on Hockey Night in Canada,'' said Lee. ``It won't be a scramble.''
Don Cherry, MacLean's long-time partner on Coach's Corner, signed a new deal last week reportedly worth $700,000 a year.
``All I'm going to say is I can't believe it and I really believe that they both will get back together,'' said Cherry. ``I didn't think it would get this far.''
Cherry said he is not yet wondering who will be his sidekick on the Coach's Corner segment.
``No way,'' said Cherry. ``I'm thinking positive that Ron will be there.''
MacLean indicated he hadn't completely given up hope that a contract couldn't be worked out.
``We're a bit stunned and hope there's an out-of-the-box idea that we haven't thought of that would see a resolution,'' he said.
MacLean's work has earned him four Gemini awards as best sports broadcaster in Canada.
He began his career in his native Red Deer, Alta., before joining the CBC in 1986. He became national host of Hockey Night In Canada in 1987, replacing Dave Hodge.