Ron MacLean and David Amber Replace George Stroumboulopoulos as Hosts of CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada

If it ain’t broke, don’t bother fixing it.

When George Stroumboulopoulos was originally tapped as host of Hockey Night in Canada in 2014, Rogers Communications had anticipated that the former late-night talk show host would bring in a younger demographic to the iconic show. Well, ratings didn’t go as what Rogers had anticipated it would be, and as part of restructuring the hockey broadcasts for the 2016-17 NHL season, it was decided to go back to what originally made Hockey Night Hockey Night.

Ron MacLean, who originally hosted Hockey Night in Canada from 1986-2014, is taking back the host’s chair in 2016. As part of his commitment to Rogers Hometown Hockey and Coach’s Corner with Don Cherry, MacLean will only host Hockey Central Saturday and the first game of the Hockey Night in Canada doubleheader. David Amber, who had been a rinkside reporter for of Hockey Night in Canada since 2011, will host the second game  of the Hockey Night in Canada doubleheader, as well as Hockey Central Postgame.

However, there are some that believe rehiring MacLean is a big mistake. Former ESPN/MSNBC personality Keith Olbermann compares this move to what NBC did with The Tonight Show in 2010. In 2008, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno was losing the late-night wars to David Letterman and Jimmy Kimmel. Four years prior, Leno’s successor, Conan O Brien, signed a contract extension to remain at NBC with the intention of succeeding Leno as the host of The Tonight Show. When Leno extended his own contract under NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Zucker that same year, Zucker said it was probably going to be his last contract he’ll ever sign. When Conan took over as host of The Tonight Show in 2009, ratings were a hit. As for Leno, he would move his show to the 10 PM/ 9PM time slot and be renamed The Jay Leno Show as the lead-in to local news. It didn’t work, as ratings for local news plummeted by October. After 7 months, it was decided that Jay Leno would return as the host of The Tonight Show on March 1. He would continue to host The Tonight Show until 2014. During Leno’s second stint as host, The Tonight Show topped the late-night ratings.

I honestly don’t know if this is the Jay Leno situation again, but after as season where NO CANADIAN TEAMS QUALIFIED FOR THE STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS, the writing was on the wall that changes would be necessary to make Hockey Night Hockey Night once again. Other changes made by Rogers regarding Hockey Night in Canada was the release of rinkside analyst Glenn Healy, studio analyst P.J. Stock, and the cancellation of Hockey Central that aired before Hockey Night in Canada on Sportsnet 360 and on NHL Network in the United States.

For more about this story, read this article from CBC News national arts reporter Deana Sumanac-Johnson.

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Off the Ice: Mike “Doc” Emrick to call MLB Network Showcase Game

It’s officially the offseason, which means hockey has taken a backseat to vacation and baseball. Now just before Major League Baseball breaks for the All-Star Game in San Diego, the Chicago Cubs take on the Pittsburgh Pirates in a three-game series between these NL Central rivals at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. If you’re not from Chicago or Pittsburgh, you’re going to get a treat. Back in March, NHL on NBC main play-by-play announcer Mike “Doc” Emrick took a break from calling hockey to call Pirates Spring Training games. Well, on July 8, MLB Network is gonna let the voice of hockey in the United States and life-long Pirates fan call a game with NBC Sports host/MLB Network play-by-play announcer Bob Costas. (The reason I wrote “if you’re not from Chicago or Pittsburgh” is because blackout restrictions DO apply for the Friday night game) Here’s a few quotes from The New York Times on the upcoming telecast:

“I just want to make sure that what I do is at least MLB Network level. Maybe the bottom of the bar they set, but I want to be halfway professional.” – Mike Emrick

“He’s a lifelong baseball fan and follows the Pirates so closely, he’s not going to be asking, ‘Which one is Andrew McCutchen?’ And he’s an obsessive preparer.” – Bob Costas

“I don’t have a home run call. Whatever happens, happens.” – Mike Emrick

For more information about the upcoming broadcast, check out this article from Awful Announcing blogger Ken Fang.

UPDATE: Here’s the best of Doc Emrick calling the Cubs-Pirates game: http://www.mlb.com/video/v912623983

 

 

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Final Take: The 2015-2016 Pittsburgh Penguins Season

Back in December, if you have told me the Pittsburgh Penguins were going to become Stanley Cup Champions by the time June comes, I would have not believed it. When the 2015 calendar year ended, the Penguins were 18-15-4, and didn’t even look like a playoff contending team. Since winning the Stanley Cup in 2009, the Penguins, despite all their successes during that 7-year span, hit the proverbial glass ceiling in the playoffs, losing in the first round three times. the second round twice, and advancing to the Eastern Conference Final during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, only to be swept in four straight games to the Boston Bruins. But when the calendar flipped to 2016, the journey to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ fourth Stanley Cup Championship in franchise history started to write itself. And it all began with a major blockbuster trade in July.

On the first day of free agency, Jim Rutherford made a huge splash in trading for Toronto Maple Leafs goal-scorer Phil Kessel. A few weeks after acquiring Kessel, a trade with the Vancouver Canucks exchanged Brandon Sutter for Nick Bonino. Hope for the Penguins didn’t come early as they started the season dropping their first three games. then a 6-4-2 November didn’t bring any more optimism. After a 3-2 shootout loss to the Los Angeles Kings on December 11, the Penguins were 15-10-3, which was the 12th best record in the Eastern Conference at the time. Penguins fans knew that eminent change was needed if they were going to contend. The Penguins went in a different direction, firing head coach Mike Johnston and promoting Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach Mike Sullivan to Penguins interim head coach. Just before their next game against the Washington Capitals, another move was made when veteran defenseman Rob Scuderi, who was in his second stint with the Penguins, was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks for defenseman Trevor Daley. Daley struggled in Chicago, only registering 6 assists in 29 games played, and knew that success wouldn’t come with a team that won three Stanley Cup Championships in the last seven seasons. In the first fifteen games played under Sullivan, the Penguins were 5-6-4, and were still battling for a wild-card spot. On January 16, a trade with the Anaheim Ducks proved vital to what was a bout to come. The Penguins received speedy forward Carl Hagelin in exchange for forward David Perron and defenseman Adam Clendening. After the trade, the Penguins started to heat up, and there was no turning back.

The Penguins went on a 28-10-1 tear after the Hagelin acquisition, and finished the season 48-26-8, which was good to finish second in the Metropolitan Division, in spite of injuries to Evgeni Malkin, who missed 26 games in the final 2 1/2 months of the season. After a 5-2 win over the Nashville Predators on March 31, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury was diagnosed with a concussion. Matt Murray, who began the season as the starting goaltender in Wilkes-Barre, started four of the Penguins’ final five games of the season. He won all four of his starts as the Penguins were ready to face the New York Rangers in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. In the first round, the normal backup goaltender to Fleury, Jeff Zatkoff, started for the Penguins. After a 4-1 home loss to the Rangers in Game 2, Murray became the starting goaltender. After beating the Rangers in five games, the next opponent for the Penguins was the Presidents’ Trophy winner and Metropolitan Division champion Washington Capitals. A huge underdog to the Capitals, the Penguins beat the Capitals in six games, and it was all due to a line that was supposed to be their third, but played like they were the first line. The line that consisted of Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino, and Phil Kessel suddenly became the talk of Pittsburgh and the entire sports world. Dubbed the HBK Line by WXDX-FM afternoon host, former World Championship Wrestling commentator, Mark Madden, the HBK Line was crucial in the Penguins run to the Stanley Cup. Combined during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Hagelin, Bonino, and Kessel had 20 goals and 56 points. The HBK Line even went up as the namesake od a sandwich at one of the most famous restaurants in the Steel City: Primanti Bros. decided to make a combination sandwich combining ham, bacon, and kielbasa, into one of their signature sandwiches that has fries, slaw and tomatoes inside. In the Eastern Conference Final against the defending Eastern Conference champion Tampa Bay Lightning, the Penguins split the first four games of the series. In Game 4, after the Lightning had a commanding 4-0 lead, Fleury relieved Murray. Heading into Game 5, a dilemma was brought forth: should Fleury start Game 5? They took that chance, and eventually lost the game 4-3, sending the series back to Tampa with a chance for the Lightning to return to the Stanley Cup Final. In Game 6, Murray once again became the no. 1 goalie for the Penguins. They took Game 6, 5-2, and sent the series back to Pittsburgh for Game 7. In that game, rookie Bryan Rust scored both goals for the Penguins as they advanced to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2009.

In the Stanley Cup Final, the Penguins faced the San Jose Sharks, who finally broke through under first-year head coach Peter DeBoer. The Penguins held fort on home ice taking the first two games of the Final. After splitting the next two games in San Jose, the Penguins returned to Pittsburgh with a chance to win the Stanley Cup on home ice. The party would have to wait as the Sharks forced a Game 6 back in San Jose with a 4-2 win. In their last game wearing Vegas Gold, the Penguins, much like they did in Minnesota in 1991, Chicago in 1992, and Detroit in 2009, won the Stanley Cup on the road with a 3-1 win over the Sharks in San Jose. Captain Sidney Crosby was named the winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Most Valuable Player in the Playoffs. As Crosby raised up the Cup, the first person he passed the Cup to was Trevor Daley, who broke his ankle in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final. Since being traded, Daley had six goals, 16 assists in 53 games played in the regular season, and had a goal and five assists in 15 games played in the playoffs. Three days after their triumph, the Penguins celebrated down the Boulevard of The Allies in front of an estimated crowd of over 400,000. The HBK Line was honored with a WWE World Heavyweight Championship belt sent by WWE COO Paul “Triple H” Levesque, and Nick Bonino’s game-winning goal in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final was saluted by the man who called the game in Punjabi for Canada, Harnarayan Singh. The mix of speed, skill, and the emergence of unknowns like Murray, Rust, and even Brian Dumoulin and Conor Sheary made the 2015-16 Pittsburgh Penguins so special, and team that looked like they were done for back in December, now sits on top of the hockey world as Stanley Cup Champions.

Well, it has been another amazing season. Unless there’s something that interests me, I’m not gonna do much posting here this summer. So I hope you enjoy the summer. The next time you probably hear from me will be during the World Cup of Hockey. So until then, I’m signing out.

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Coach’s Corner at the Stanley Cup Final Rewind: June 12, 2016

Well, what a season it has been! What a playoffs it has been!

Here’s the final installment of Coach’s Corner for the 2015-16 season.

Congratulations to the 2016 Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins. The next blog entry is the annual “Final Take” about the 2015-16 Pittsburgh Penguins.

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Coach’s Corner at the Stanley Cup Final Rewind: June 9, 2016

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2016 Stanley Cup Final Superlatives on The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon

Last night on The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy presented some Stanley Cup Superlatives featuring some players who are participating in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final. ICYMI, here’s the video:

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PARTY HARD! How a Song Came to Define the 2015-16 Pittsburgh Penguins Season

Have you ever heard of Andrew Fetterly Wilkes-Krier? No? Well, this is a story of him and how his biggest hit influenced a team trying to find their way to make that song one of their own.

In the year 2000, Wilkes-Krier, the son of a University of Michigan Law School professor and a violinist, was trying to find his way into the world of music. Going by the name Andrew W.K., he released his first EP, AWKGOJ. His music was originally described as “hedonistic, so-dumb-it’s-smart rawk.” Today, we call it “party music”. He sent copies of demos to every major record label or musicians that had connections to those record labels. One of those demos was sent to Dave Grohl, former drummer of Nirvana and current lead singer/guitarist of the Foo Fighters. He was impressed by Andrew’s demo, that he wanted his band to open up for the Foo Fighters in San Francisco. After a performance at the Mercury Lounge in New York’s Lower East Side, Island/Def Jam Music Group executive Lewis Largent decided to give Andrew and his band a record deal with Island Records. His first album, I Get Wet, was released. The cover of the album was a picture of Andrew’s face that was bloodied from the nose down. Originally, Andrew smashed his nose in with a brick to create the album cover.But since the effect wasn’t bloody enough, blood purchased from a butcher shop was used to enhance the goriness of the photo. The album’s first single, “Party Hard”, was the definition of what “party music”: upbeat, positive, and colorful, with a touch of anarchy. And you can sense it even from the way he dresses for every concert: in a plain white shirt, dirty white jeans, and wearing running shoes. Fast forward 14 years later. when Nicholas Doblick, a die-hard Pittsburgh Penguins fan who manages The Sports Daily’s Pittsburgh sports blog PSAMP (Pittsburgh Sports and Mini Ponies), suggested the Penguins Game Productions team to use “Party Hard” as their new goal song. (to read the full blog entry, click here) Over the last 10 years, NHL teams tried to find a niche into taking a song and using it as their own instead of going the conventional rout of using Gary Glitter’s “Rock and Roll Part 2” or Blur’s “Song 2”. It worked in Anaheim with Pennywise’s “Bro Hymn“, “Kernkraft 400” by Zombie Nation in Boston, Joe Satriani’s “Crowd Chant” in Minnesota, and most significantly, The Fratellis’ “Chelsea Dagger” in Chicago. Change didn’t come easily, but during the Penguins 6th home game –  the game where Buffalo Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma returned to Pittsburgh in his first game on the visiting bench after leading the Penguins to a Stanley Cup in 2009 – during the first minute of play, Pascal Dupuis’ first goal of the season lead to this:

Since then, #PartyHard has been the statement du jour for the Penguins this season. Even Andrew W.K. himself showed up to a Penguins game this season. And now with the Penguins just one win away from their first Stanley Cup Championship since 2009, this song can officially be permanently etched into Penguins lore forever ’cause like the song says when it’s time to party, we will always party hard.

For more on how Andrew W.K. reacted to his song becoming an NHL goal song, check out his interview with Digital Trends and his interview with PittburghPenguins.com.

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