As Ron MacLean talks about bringing the Scotiabank Hometown Hockey tour to Prince George this weekend, he ash a thought.
Talking about a fight Dan Hamhuis of the Canucks got into earlier in the week against the Philadelphia Flyers, MacLean says, “The Watson brothers, who are from Smithers, like Hamhuis, would have been proud of him for dropping the gloves, and I know Don Cherry would have been watching that one too.
“Actually, I might suggest to Don that we talk abut that on Coach’s Corner this week.”
For MacLean, the first season of the Hometown Hockey tour has seen him visit every province, and it’s been quite the journey.
“We’ve dodged the bullet on the weather for the most part. We chose to go to Atlantic Canada and we caught the heart of winter.
“In Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, we had to stop doing the live broadcast in the second intermission because we were afraid the mobile truck was going to cave in because of the ice build-up.”
Those same weather concerns are bringing him to Prince George a little earlier than normal.
“I’ll actually be flying out of Toronto on Friday and up to Prince George on Saturday. Normally, I fly in on Sunday morning, but the weather forecast for Toronto is for snow, so I want to make sure I get out.”
The tour is in town Saturday and Sunday, culminating with the Canucks and Arizona Coyotes game on Sunday afternoon. That game makes sense in the scheme of where the tour is. There have been a couple of times is hasn’t.
“When we were in Lethbridge,” MacLean says, “the logical game would have been a Calgary one, but we had a Winnipeg game instead. Those two are real rivals this year for the playoffs, so it as a strange choice.”
But, he says, the network doesn’t have control over which game it will get, and he says they’ve been lucky so far this year.
“We only had one game with two non-Canadian teams, and that in Cole Harbour, which is Sydney Crosby’s hometown. We had the Penguins and the Blackhawks game, which I thought would be great for ratings, but they were a little disappointing.
“That was a matinee game, though, so that may have played a role in that.”
That issue of time is something he would like to see changed for next year.
“Thee are a couple of things to tweak. I would like the pre-game show to be on at the same time. We’ve been pretty good, but there have been a few times when it’s been earlier, and I would like to see that change.
“On Sunday afternoon, a lot of the kids are still out playing hockey, the parents are out watching, that’s the audience we’re looking for.”
As the season as gone along, MacLean has noticed a few things.
“The past few weeks especially, we’ve had bigger crowds out for the tour. I think people are gaining an understanding of what it’s all about.”
This will be MacLean’s first trip to Prince George, but he does have a couple of tie-ins to the city.
“Chris Mason was a goalie with the Cougars, and his dad, Paul Mason, gave me my first job in radio in Red Deer.
“Also, I was watching the Canada Winter Games when they were there a few weeks ago, because Red Deer, which is my hometown, is the host for the 2019 Games.”
He has also seen the future NHLers taking an interest in the tour.
“In Regina, all the Pats players came out to see the show. In Sault Ste. Marie, we were actually there at the same time as the Greyhounds had a game, but their players came out when their game was over.”
MacLean has also been following the season for the Prince George Cougars and made a call last week when he was in Kamloops.
“I was in Kamloops for a speech, and afterwards I was talking to some people about the Cougars and Blazers, and I said, ‘The Blazers are done. They won’t catch the Cougars.’”
The Scotiabank Hometown Hockey tour starts at noon on both Saturday and Sunday at CN Centre, with a lot of outdoor events and giveaways. Sunday is he big broadcast day, with the Scotiabank Hotstve at 1:30 p.m. with Tara Clone, Geoff Courtnall and Kirk McLean. At 4:30 p.m., MacLean takes to the air with the pre-game show, followed by the broadcast of the Canucks and Coyotes at 5 p.m.