As Game 2 between the Winnipeg Jets and Vegas Golden Knights wore on, most viewers were struck by a recurring theme: Jonathan Marchessault’s name was being mispronounced repeatedly by play-by-play commentator Jim Hughson. The mispronunciation varied, but was generally a variation on “Mar-shar-sho”. As it continued, astute viewers noticed that colour commentator Craig Simpson joined in the excessive ‘sh’ sounds in Marchessault’s last name. Kelly Hrudey kept this up during his commentary in the second intermission. After a league which has introduced us to such difficult names as Curtis Leschyschyn, Martin Frk, Branko Radivojevic, Stan Neckar, and Paul Szczechura, it seems strange for so many prominent broadcasters to all struggle with a relatively simple French Canadian name such as Marchessault. It almost seemed too coordinated to be accidental, which Hughson has now confirmed to be true.
“It’s all a tribute to our former colleague Bob Cole,” Hughson told reporters on Tuesday morning. “Cole was caught off-guard by not being assigned a playoff gig, as were we all. People in Canada seem to love him despite him not having called a play correctly since 2015, and not having identified a player without the assistance of Garry Galley since Sidney Crosby in the Penguins’ run to the 2009 Stanley Cup. Since Canadians seem to love him, we thought we’d throw in a subtle tribute by screwing up a name deliberately.
“Marchessault was the obvious target,” he continued. “It had a to be a Canadian name, because Don Cherry’s still broadcasting so we don’t want to steal his xenophobic shtick yet. A guy like Dustin Byfuglien has had his name butchered so many times, we didn’t want to keep beating that dead horse. It also couldn’t be a name we’d all know, like Crosby or Stamkos. Marchessault was the perfect combination of length, former obscurity, current prominence, and Canadian-ness to screw up.”
When asked why they were just messing up one name, Simpson piped up: “There’s still a round and a half left. We’re just getting started. Will we start referring to everyone by their position instead of name? Will we refer to the teams as the ‘Winnipegs’ and the ‘Vegases’? Will we forget the name of that little black rubber cylinder they keep hitting with those fibreglass things in their hands? Just wait and see!”
This reportedly isn’t the first time the Sportsnet/CBC crew has paid tribute to its former colleagues. Elliotte Friedman previously reported that a couple of panelists (who wished to remain anonymous) started actually combing their hair before broadcasts in honour of “fashion forward” George Stroumboulopoulos. Nick Kypreos was also rumoured to act more “meathead-y” in honour of Glenn Healy after the latter was let go, though nobody seemed to notice a difference. Hughson also commented that they’re considering giving up sentence structure as a tribute to Cherry when he leaves, though he added, “We may have to leave that one up to Kyle [Bukauskas] since Cherry will be here decades after I’m dead.”
It’s as of yet unclear if Bob Cole will be asked to do commentary for the 2018-19 NHL season. In the meantime, we’ll have to settle for seeing more tributes from the panel. The most likely candidate promises to be a reference to John Carlson as “Gonchar” during one of the intermission panels.
(Editor’s note: an earlier version only credited CBC as the broadcast agency. Sportsnet is actually the company responsible for the broadcasts, with CBC also televising much of the coverage. The story has been updated to reflect this. Those responsible have been sacked.)