Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Hack Night in Canada
By any objective measure, the three stars of the Canadiens four game sweep of Tampa Bay were Rene Bourque, Carey Price and take your pick from among PK Subban, Brendan Gallagher and Tomas Plekanec.
By Hockey Night in Canada's standards, the three stars were Ginette Reno and French Canadian referees Francis Charron and Francois St. Laurent.
Ron MacLean's ill-considered suggestion that francophone refs harbour a tribal bias towards the Canadiens was only the most ludicrous example of anti-Montreal sentiment, and coming from MacLean, it wasn't entirely surprising. This is the same guy who compared hockey players to 9/11 first responders and invoked the Arab-Israeli conflict when Rogers CEO Nadir Mohammed shook hands with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on a new broadcast rights deal. MacLean is a fundamentally sound show host, but his editorial judgement is terrible, and last night he managed to offend an entire linguistic group and insult the intelligence of the rest of us.
Meanwhile, lead play-by-play announcer Jim Hughson's blatantly pro-Tampa agenda was beyond obvious when Steven Stamkos was spared an additional minor penalty despite punching Alexei Emelin in the face after Stamkos was penalized for hooking. Said Hughson, "Well, the good thing about this is they only gave him 2(minutes)." Hughson, Glenn Healy and PJ Stock couldn't get over how much Lady Luck smiled on the Canadiens while the Lightning couldn't catch a break. Don Cherry might have only been the fifth-most biased announcer on the Hockey Night in Canada crew during the series, and to Cherry's credit, at least he doesn't pretend to be neutral.
Bias and homerism are normal in sports broadcasting, but they should be confined to local broadcasts. A national broadcaster has an ethical responsibility to present fair and balanced coverage. Hockey Night in Canada routinely falls short of meeting that responsibility, and that's something Rogers needs to address when it takes over the show next season- assuming Rogers cares about professionalism.