I think a lot of people were caught off guard this week by the announcement of George Stromboulopoulos as the new host of Hockey Night in Canada.
I have a lot of respect for Stromboulopoulos. I consider him to be one of the best interviewers I've ever known. No matter what the topic he comes across as well informed and genuinely interested. He is smart, sharp and witty.
Now I have to admit I was initially skeptical. Will Strombo show up wearing his ear and nose rings and a Ramones t-shirt? Okay, probably not, be he certainly won't be wearing the old company baby-blue blazer, either. But that's the thing about Strombo. He's gotten everyone to look past the spikey hair and the MuchMusic presentation to realize he is not only Mr. Charisma but the hardest working man in the business. He will earn your respect. But he might have his work cut out for him with such an entrenched show like HNIC, with it's 60 years of history.
And, unbeknownst to many who know him as a rocker turned news personality, Strombo actually got his start in the business in sports. He worked for Bob McCown and the boys at Toronto's FAN 590 radio station before quickly moving on to his own radio stardom that led to television opportunities with MuchMusic, CBC and CNN.
Stromboulopoulos replaces Ron MacLean. MacLean has a huge following but his exit is long overdue. Long ago MacLean forgot his role as host as he turned Hockey Night in Canada into his own personal soap box. He also seemed to think he was bigger than the show itself. Only Don Cherry is allowed to think that - partially because he actually is.
MacLean does stay and will continue to host Cherry's Coach's Corner segment where Cherry is sure to keep him in line. Besides, Cherry is less likely to ever correctly pronounce Stromboulopoulos as I am to ever spell it without triple checking.
MacLean will also host Hockey Day in Canada festivities and similar celebrations, as well as figure prominently in a new Sunday show Hometown Hockey largely aimed at grass roots. Those are MacLean's strengths, though the return of Scott Russell in similar roles would have been welcomed.
No word on other changes in store for Hockey Night in Canada. There probably won't be too many fans disappointed if P.J. Stock and Glenn Healy disappear. Hopefully Elliotte Friedman is given a much larger role.
I do hope they keep Bob Cole in the rotation if only because his iconic voice is such an institution. I also hope they keep the Punjabi broadcasts alive. I have no idea how profitable that operation is but it is a great vehicle for hockey and Canada, giving our great game to new generations of Canadians.
Daren Millard and Jeff Marek were also announced as Roger's new hosts of Wednesday and Thursday night broadcasts, respectively.