When Rogers secured the national rights to NHL broadcasts this past March for the next 12 seasons it changed how Canadians would view hockey. A month into the new season and reviews are mixed. Sportsnet retained too many from its own network and the CBC who just don’t have the talent to be on national broadcasts. They haven’t utilized the excellent Elliotte Friedman as much as they could and they continue to prop up the likes of Glenn Healy. There have been some improvements though. Whatever you think of George Strombo, he’s an excellent interviewer and his interviews with players, so far, have been anything but conventional.
One of the innovations of the new deal was additional national broadcast nights. Rogers has Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday hockey broadcasts. Rogers has tried to brand each day thematically, with Sunday night’s focus the grassroots of the game in Canadian communities.
I think the Hometown Hockey Tour is the perfect vehicle for Ron MacLean. He’s always seemed to be at his best when he’s delving into hockey’s connection to community at both the micro and macro levels. He genuinely seemed to enjoy CBC’s Hockey Day in Canada broadcasts over the past several years. Immersing himself in the narratives and local colour of Canadian communities from coast-to-coast-to coast, MacLean reveled in the purity of the game at its most basic level. This is essentially what he’s now doing on a weekly basis with the Hometown Hockey Tour.
I just don’t like the Hometown Hockey Tour.
It’s a nice premise and it’s been executed fairly well so far. It’s nice to see a community you recognize (I enjoyed seeing my former city London, Ontario to open the season), and some of the narratives are compelling. But it seems better suited to an annual event than weekly occurrence. With each passing Sunday the content gets less unique and the novelty wears off. People gathering in a square and cheer, a local famous person or two talks to Ron, and a local minor team introduces the broadcast. It all starts to look the same after awhile.
It's not that these are bad things, it's that these things aren't particularly relevant.
When I’m watching my team, I want the coverage to be about my team. This was my biggest problem with the Sportsnet’s regional coverage of the Sens. When much of the pregame and almost all of the intermission discussion is about other teams, it doesn’t make for compelling viewing. While Sunday broadcasts aren’t filled with discussion about the Leafs or other prominent Canadian clubs this season, the actual game still gets ignored. It's the same result and it makes for a less informative broadcast.
Ultimately, I’m watching the game for the game and that’s what I want the broadcast to be about.