Ron MacLean Apologizes Again

Ron MacLean Apologizes Again

by mike in boston / @mikeinboston / email


Editorial Note: This story was picked up by Google News. For clarification, this is an opinion column. Disagreement is welcome.


When Rogers took over Hockey Night in Canada from CBC in 2014, Ron MacLean was one of the first things on their agenda that needed to change. Then Sportsnet boss Scott Moore had this to say about why he wanted to remove MacLean from the lead host role, and replace him with music and pop culture personality George Stroumboulopoulos:


“We want to get a little bit younger, we want to catch that demo that is not necessarily coming to the television at all — that are either playing video games or not going out and participating in the games — we want to get a new breed of Canadian fans that get passionate about the games. I think George does that, I think George brings a different sensibility but one of the great things is having him with the rest of the team. He’ll sort of be like that ‘Sesame Street’ thing — one of these things is not like the others — but he’ll bring something different and his own unique take on hockey broadcasting.”


Moore promised advertisers significant ratings increases as a result of this fresh direction, and charged them accordingly. After two years of declining ratings, the decision to remove MacLean was reversed, with advertisers being compensated with givebacks during Jays playoff games. At that time, Moore said this:


Hockey Night in Canada is a tradition unlike anything else in this country. It’s part of our national DNA, and so is Ron. It’s a balance of giving our fans what they want and evolving the broadcasts to keep them fresh. George is an extremely versatile and creative broadcaster and we value the contributions he made to Hockey Night in Canada. We look forward to seeing what his next great project will be.”


Moore’s admission that he misread the appeal of Strombo to younger fans and the reinstatement of MacLean to his traditional role signified that many of the innovations Sportsnet had envisioned for their tenure as national rights holder would need to be re-thought. The premise of the $5.2 billion dollar agreement was that there were untapped revenue streams in selling hockey to Canadians. Paying a big premium to be be the exclusive home of national and playoff hockey only made sense if there was a corresponding profit to be made.



As we finish off Year 7 of Rogers’ “experience hockey like never before” mantra, the Dream Team picture above has changed significantly. The biggest change in recent years was the firing of Don Cherry after he refused to apologize for disparaging new Canadians. Somewhat ironically, in the press conference pictured above Moore joked about the need for a seven minute rather than a seven second delay for Coach’s Corner, with Cherry commenting that he wasn’t sure how long he would last this year but that Moore couldn’t “touch” him now. Ron MacLean also tells Strombo “don’t screw this up”, then makes several bad puns. Jeff Marek refers to his suit as the Sportsnet mandated “young Republican” look. The 10-minute event is an interesting historical document, and can be seen here.


Since returning as intermission host in 2016 Ron MacLean has largely stuck to the folksy congenial persona that kept him in the host role until 2014. This tendency to go with the flow was on display during the final Cherry segment, as MacLean chose not to challenge the xenophobic statements being made, but instead gave a thumbs up as the show went to commercial. This passivity is precisely what he apologized for in the ensuing days. Among his many statements were the following:


  • “So I owe you an apology, too. That’s the big thing that I want to emphasize. I sat there, did not catch it, did not respond.”


  • “I want to sincerely apologize to our viewers and Canadians. During last night’s broadcast, Don made comments that were hurtful and prejudiced and I wish I had handled myself differently. It was a divisive moment and I am truly upset with myself for allowing it.”


  • “We are all hurting. I have collapsed a 100 times this week, if not more. We are all disappointed. … I’ve sat all week long reflecting, listening to you (the viewer) — and I have heard you. I’ve reflected by listening to my own heart, and I’ve struggled mightily to find the words.”


  • “I thought a lot about falling on my sword too. But then I thought if I do that I infer what happened was right somehow, or that I am going along to get along, or that I am going to just sit silently by or be a bystander again in a situation.”



This all brings us to MacLean’s most recent incident, where he made remarks which came across as homophobic. During a panel segment that involved some humorous banter, MacLean interjected with “you have a photo of a guy with his tarp [shirt] off, you’re definitely positive for something.” For analysis of why this might be interpreted as a pejorative statement, here’s hockey activist Brock McGillis on CTV.



Ron MacLean clarified the next day that he intended something else entirely. He issued the following apology:



Sportsnet added this:



As with Doug Smith’s recent apology, the actual contrition is bubble-wrapped in talk of teachable moments, and opportunities for everyone to learn. And as with the Coach’s Corner apology, MacLean cites a “contract” with the viewer that he has broken.


For the record, I don’t think MacLean was intending to disparage gay men. I do think he was going for a risqué joke that relied on questioning why a straight man would have a picture of a shirtless man in his home. I also think that MacLean has a penchant for trying to get the last word in on discussions, and that bad puns are part of his brand. So it’s a bit of a perfect storm leading to cringeworthy television.


In my conversations with people in and out of the media there is a divide on how much we should hold people responsible for verbal flubs. Being a broadcaster is hard, and we viewers need to leave room for normal human error. (I once heard a weather person try to say “cold front coming through” but ended up saying “cold c*nt coming frew” by mistake.)


But this isn’t a slip of the tongue. This is a swing and a miss by someone who is paid a lot of money to mediate discussions. When an umpire becomes the story about a baseball game, it’s the umpire who has failed to do his job. I think something similar is true here. Ron MacLean is once again the story about HNIC’s intermission show. That’s not good. And while it is good that he using this incident as an opportunity to educate himself about the unintended implication of the words he chooses and the jokes he attempts, there are plenty of people who don’t need to learn those lessons because they already know them.


Whether you like MacLean’s folksy charm and wordplay or not is a matter of personal preference. In this case, it steered him into a bad place. With five years left on the Rogers rights deal, and with the Strombo experiment in the past, it is highly likely that MacLean will retain his hosting duties. Personally, as a viewer, I’d like to see him spend that time elevating the work of those around him rather than centring his own whimsical remarks.




thanks for reading and commenting,

until next time …

mike (not really in boston)


  • comment-avatar

    time to move on from Ron. The whole show is stale and boring. TSN does hockey 10 times better and we as fans deserve better. Ron thinks he is funny and loves his puns, his big mouth got him in trouble. No host would be better than keeping him.

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    Ron is a great broadcaster. But for too long now he has been the host and the guest on his own panel. Somehow Ron (and HNIC) has grown the host role into an opinion role. He’s a participant and a host; and I am long tired of it.

    I am not anywhere close to the young demo that they were looking for with Strombo – but I thought it was a stroke of genius. I am surprised and disappointed that it didn’t work out. And was even more disappointed that they came running back to Ron.

  • comment-avatar
    Lee (Oakville) 3 weeks ago

    I watched MacLean’s comments live and I instantly knew two things: 1. he meant jokingly that Simmonds, et. al would test positive for alcohol, and 2. there would be blowback from certain individuals and groups. This negative reaction, in my mind, is from people that think too linearly about humour and language and are actively looking for ways to be offended and attack individuals from the comfort of their couch. MacLean is by no means perfect but to accuse him of homophobia (as you did MiB) is quantum times more offensive than anything MacLean said.

    As well, MiB’s constant parsing of apologies is strange. It comes from a place where people believe that what a person says is more more important than what they do. I don’t even care about apologies on Twitter because I know they are essentially dictated by PR corporate types, fail to address the root cause of any problem and do not present any solutions.

    I have followed this site closely for many years. However, I’m finding it more and more difficult to do so given the sparse content, rote opinions from MiB (in my mind) and any lack of factual analysis.

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    @Lee – I hear you about the parsing of apologies. But it’s precisely because they are press statements that we cover them here on a media site. When people apologize to each other in private it’s not sports media news.

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    Cirroc 3 weeks ago

    @Lee Couldn’t agree more. I saw a few comments on Twitter from Brock McGillis where he decided that Ron’s comments could be inferred as homophobic. Could be? Is that what it’s come to? Could be? Obviously Brock has endured hardships throughout his lifetime but is this really the way to celebrate his coming of age? By collecting as many perceived injustices as he can, at the expense of others? Context, nuance, and the ability to think for one’s self have been totally erased from society it seems. Obviously we all want to be on the right side of history as they say, but not this way.

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    Dave Smith 2 weeks ago

    Host and guest on his own panel show sums up the Ron MacLean experience perfectly. Until that changes it will still be the same.

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    I believe he meant “test positive for rum” – it’s consistent with Ron because it’s so forced. Nobody says that, it’s not funny, but he’s trying to be cute and get the last stupid word in.

    He’s way past his sell date. For years he asks questions that highlight how much he knows – pure attention hog. As someone notes above, he wants to be host and lead analyst.

    The entire HNIC intermission is slop. Elliotte is always trying for attention. They all try too hard to poke fun at each other with banter. It’s all noise and very little signal.

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    Ron has always been quirky, but they’ve forced him to shift from being a host who navigated the conversation (think Satellite Hotstove), which he was the best at and when he was at his best, to having a useless 4-way conversation of what we all just saw with our own eyes, pandering to political matters and promoting Rogers products ad nauseum. As for the comment, it’s much ado about nothing, but today’s sensitive society gets all worked up over and misconstrues every little thing.

    Strombo was a joke of a host and was rightfully purged ASAP (even though, for some stupid reason, I actually welcomed the change when it was announced. And if people think a James Duthie or Jeff Marek would be better than Ron, they’d come to realize they are just as quirky and ever dorkier than Ron, all without the same cache or fluent delivery.

    Hockey broadcasts in general have gone down the toilet in a big way, and sadly,there are no up and comers to breathe fresh air into the future of the product.

  • comment-avatar
    Nick Curran 2 weeks ago

    The public is gonna get tired it the gay lobby and their advocates. Soon it will turn to people ignoring them, then ridiculing them. Then verbal and or other attacks and we’ll be back to the early 1980s in no time. People need to pushback against these offended mongers.

  • comment-avatar
    Original Mitch 2 weeks ago

    What a bullshit phony apology from the biggest weasel in canadian broadcasting. “ when others are within earshot “?? It’s a national broadcast, Ron!!

    What an embarrassment to Canada.

  • comment-avatar
    Rob G 2 weeks ago

    I say this as a black man:

    I agree with Lee, this site has become a dungeon of cancel culture and very political, there is constant commentary of who’s racist, homophobic or sexist. I’m not a Ron Maclean fan that said I’m even more so no fan of cancel culture and trying to over analyze intent.

    In many cases the labels I mention above are levied by people trying to hide their guilt of being what they are accusing others of. There is a lot of hypocrisy out there and those that throw these daggers had better make sure their closets are clean. There are a lot of people burning down houses and those same people are screaming arsonist!!

  • comment-avatar

    I didn’t see this live, only out of context in a Tweet later.
    I’m almost 40 years-old, from southern Ontario, and I honestly can’t recall ever hearing “guy with his tarp off” used by anyone before, and that was only the first stumbling block.
    I certainly didn’t buy in to the homophobic comments because or that it was an AIDS joke at all as that was obviously way too out there and dated, even for Ron; he wouldn’t even think of that, however, it all still made no sense to me. Even if I did watch it live, it would probably still be out of context as most people don’t watch all of the non-hockey content on a broadcast, especially the stuff in the 30-minute pre-game section which is where I understand the original reference to the photo was made. It was very confusing.
    I would love to know the detailed viewership of the 30 minute pre-game segments as it seems less and less important now, especially with the teams Tweeting out the lines before a game, and the beat reporters on Twitter talking through the line-rushes in the warmup. Who is tuning in to listen to the hosts banter about the stuff that’s not important enough to make it into the intermission segments?

  • comment-avatar
    Unknown/Editor 2 weeks ago

    This episode with Ron McLean reminds me of the riot on Capital Hill after Trump’s rally. There is nothing you can say or do to convince people of true facts. Those that think McLean was misunderstood, will also argue that the sky is actually green, and that possibly pigs do fly. This event is a sad realization that our society is sicker than we are willing to acknowledge.

  • comment-avatar

    I have to wonder had Jennifer not reacted like she did, which was what got the initial attention on twitter from what I could tell, would this have even been a thing or just ignored as being Ron being Ron with his dumb dad-joke puns? It seems like after people were noticing her reaction was when they started to read into what Ron said as something.

  • comment-avatar

    They fired Cherry for a lot less and Ron refused to support his long time partner and showed him self to be a self serving back stabbing weasel – I saw nothing wrong with what Cherry said and I actually see nothing wrong with what Mclean said however he should be kicked to the curb despite his sniveling apology for the same reason Cherry was – They both apparently upset some SJW snowflakes and these days that is a no no –

  • comment-avatar

    MacLean looked like an idiot. I see a lot of people here complaining about MIB, and I have to agree. He doesn’t really bring much to the table anymore, and is a one-trick pony. This blog would be better served with new blood or just sticking with Jonah making the posts. Jonah is very progressive, but doesn’t sound like an angry teenager with a lot of angst.

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    Mr.E. 2 weeks ago

    Ya. Whatever. The on-ice product has been disappointing for almost 30 years now. Cherry and McLean were the only parts of HNIC that I tuned into until Cherry left.

    It’s supposed to be fun. I never watched hockey to be conscious of the latest sensitivities. Totally understand why we should evolve, but it seems like we’re changing things that need to be changed and things that might need to be changed. Reminds me of Coca Cola when they thought the formula might need to be changed…

  • comment-avatar

    There’s five years left. Time for the final Chapter. Good night Ron and thanks for coming.

  • comment-avatar
    Clutch87 2 weeks ago

    I posted this on Twitter but I’ll post it here too.

    I honestly think he needs to stop apologizing and everyone needs to just relax. The majority of people are never as offended as the Twitter outrage makes you think. I am a visible minority living in Canada and I think everything gets too blown out of proportion.

    And I think when someone is made to apologize or someone gets “cancelled” like Don Cherry did, all it does is create more division and a backlash from the other side. So now all the conservatives are going to feel unheard and more angry at the left.

    What I think should happen is when someone misspeaks or says something that is considered offensive. They should be given an opportunity to explain themselves and where they’re coming from. This creates inclusion and getting to understand one another and not just a forced apology.

  • comment-avatar
    Liberty Village Bob 2 weeks ago

    The intermission shows have been terrible since before Rogers took over. They took a bad product and made it worse with their terrible studios ….. who thoughts Nuck Kypreos holding a hokcey stick was a good idea?

  • comment-avatar

    Clutch87: Your points are sound. Every major issue now comes with divisiveness and nobody seems to want to wade into the shades of grey where you can find understanding and potentially agreement.

  • comment-avatar
    Drumanchor 2 weeks ago

    Somebody needs to tell MontfromLondonOnt that he is the snowflake. Soooo sensitive. Oh, and that Trump lost the election.

  • comment-avatar
    David White 2 weeks ago

    Not sure which is worse, Maclean’s puns or his cringeworthy apology. Put my vote in the HNIC needs a new host column. It will be interesting to see if the viewer numbers drop now that the Leafs have been eliminated.

    Also, anyone know what is happening with McCown and Sauga960? His podcast was not carried yesterday and although he is still listed as a host on the Sauga960AM site, if you click his or Shannon’s name it leads to a mystery person page (404)

  • comment-avatar

    @David White…It looks like he didn’t produce a podcast today. The latest one on his YouTube channel is yesterday’s May 31 episode.

  • comment-avatar

    Bob’s June 01 podcast is now up on his YouTube channel. It was apparently posted sometime after 10:00 pm last night.

    Also of note is the length…1:01. The podcast went to a uniform length of approx. 46 minutes after he signed on with 960.

    The return to a longer time would seem on the surface to confirm that the radio option is currently off the table.

  • comment-avatar

    Nice find Paul G.

    We will try to get confirmation if the Sauga960 partnership is done.

  • comment-avatar

    Back to posting the podcasts earlier in the day.

  • comment-avatar

    Drumanchor – I don’t quite understand what you are inferring – I certainly am no snowflake – I am simply fed up with every minority group constantly looking for something anything that they consider offensive – Don Cherry and now Ron McLean(who I have no use for) were railroaded by these oh so woke clowns- As for your crack about Trump – I don’t understand why you made it but I believe there are enough questions to warrant a recount in a great many districts – I suspect many left wing whackos down there would welcome a recount considering what has happened to the good old U S of A since Trump was stick handled out of the presidency –

  • comment-avatar
    Gary M 2 weeks ago

    Big fan of M.I.B. That’s not about to change. Need more of his work, not less.

    But yes, the forced hysteria about non-events like this is getting very tiresome. And my fellow white liberals are wearing out their welcome. It’s easy to ignore complaints about cancel culture from people who look like me, I get that. It will increasingly get difficult to ignore complaints from the likes of Donald Glover and Dave Chapelle and our diverse fellow commenters here, and soon enough the cancel culture era will self-destruct like McCarthyism did.

  • comment-avatar
    Drumanchor 2 weeks ago

    MontfromLondonOnt – “I certainly am no snowflake”, said the snowflake.

  • comment-avatar

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