Chris Foulds – Kamloops This Week
Champion punmeister Ron MacLean dazzled a large crowd at a 50th anniversary dinner in Kamloops last week — then promised he will be back in the Tournament Capital in three years to help the Kamloops International Bantam Ice Hockey Tournament celebrate its half-century milestone.
CBC icon MacLean was the keynote speaker on Wednesday night (March 11) at the Coast Hotel and Conference Centre, where the Central Interior chapter of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA-CI) held its big dinner marking 50 years as an organization.
The association tried to have MacLean speak at last year’s annual dinner but, as CHBA-CI president Matt McCurrach quipped: “A little thing called the Olympics got in the way.”
Following a private meet-and-greet with dinner sponsors, MacLean took to the stage and had the audience mesmerized with his tales of Don Cherry, Gary Bettman, the Battle of the Blades program, the Olympics, Harold Ballard — and more Don Cherry.
MacLean is so good at telling a tale, so knowledgable about his subject and so damn genuine in relating the story that someone never exposed to frozen rubber on ice would have been entertained.
Naturally, his anecdotes concerning Cherry elicited the largest roars of laughter, helped by MacLean’s impressive impersonation of The Coach.
When MacLean first started working with Cherry on Hockey Night in Canada’s Coach’s Corner segment, a producer advised MacLean to stop darting his eyes up and down as he interviewed a guest.
With that advice in mind, MacLean said, he looked Cherry in the eye for a solid six minutes that first time together — only to have an eye well up and a tear stream down his face.
MacLean said Cherry wondered aloud if this new kid was going to cry every time fighting was defended.
Another time, MacLean described an incident in which Cherry’s unfiltered vocabulary inadvertently landed in the ears of millions of viewers.
In the 1996 World Cup of Hockey, Cherry had been miffed that Team Canada GM Glen Sather had not dressed Steve Yzerman through the first two games. In Game 3, Yzerman finally saw action and scored the winning goal against Slovakia.
As Stevie Y left the ice to be interviewed by MacLean and Cherry, The Coach pumped his fist and approached the Detroit Red Wing captain.
“Atta boy, Stevie boy!” Cherry said. “Way to stick it up their ass!”
“He didn’t mean the Slovaks,” MacLean said of Cherry’s posterior pronouncement. Continued on page A13
“He meant Sather for not dressing him.”
MacLean also touched on his relationship with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman which, based on his testy interviews with the man, seems frosty.
On the contrary, MacLean said, he actually likes the diminutive head of hockey.
In Game 7 of the 1999 Stanley Cup Final between Dallas and Buffalo, the temperature and humidex readings in Texas were off the charts, creating concern for the ice conditions. MacLean said as much during the pre-game show — which did not endear him to Bettman, who was standing just off-camera.
After they went to a break, MacLean said, Bettman approached (and here MacLean perfected Bettman’s somewhat whiny, nasally voice):
“Ron, Ron, why do you have to be so negative?”
To which MacLean replied: “Well, if we weren’t playing hockey in June, there wouldn’t be a need to, would there?”
MacLean also told a fantastic tale of an interview he did with Harold Ballard, the legendary cantankerous owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs. It was long and funny, but boiled down to Ballard wanting MacLean to read aloud on TV a long letter Ballard penned. The letter blasted a proposal to have the Soviets play an NHL all-star team in NHL rinks.
Those who grew up with Ballard’s sad-sack Leafs know he had no love for the “goddamn Commies!”
In the Q&A segment of the night, a question was posed to MacLean: “Will the Vancouver Canucks ever win the Stanley Cup?
To which MacLean quipped: “Well, if they get rid of [Alex] Burrows. I’m kidding! I’m kidding!”
MacLean, of course, received much heat in 2010 when he sided with referee Stephane Auger when Burrows accused the official of targeting him for penalties.
In seriously answering the question, MacLean opined the Sedins might be a bit too old to lead the Canucks to a title in a “ping-pong game” that is getting faster by the week.
“It’s a lot to ask of the Sedins,” MacLean said. “It’s going to be a few years. But, everybody’s talking about Winnipeg and Calgary being teams of the future.
“Edmonton should be there, too, if they can keep it [young core of talent] together — but, that might be the Heineken talking!”