Red Deer’s Ron MacLean and his longtime Coach’s Corner co-host Don Cherry are basking in some official love, decades after being edged out for a TV hosting award by a fishing show.
The two hockey commentators will be honoured next month with a shared star on Canada’s Walk of Fame in Toronto.
“They are loved from coast to coast,” Walk of Fame CEO Melanie Hurley has stated. “It would be only fitting to honour them together.”
MacLean is thrilled with the joint induction that will take place on Nov. 7 and be televised on Nov. 17 on Global.
“I don’t want to turn this into an aw-shucks moment … but obviously I’m very humbled,” he said.
While MacLean has personally won many awards of excellence, remarkably this is the first honour he will be sharing with the colourful and verbose Cherry in their 31 years of co-hosting Coach’s Corner.
MacLean recalled the two were jointly nominated for a Gemini Award “sometime in the late 1980s,” but were beat out by Bob Izumi’s Real Fishing Show.
Cherry was so incensed he put up a fuss, saying he didn’t even want to be in the running for an award anymore if that was how it was going to go, recalled MacLean. “He said it was embarrassing …” so no more nominations were forthcoming.
“We’re lucky somebody thought of us for (the Canada’s Walk of Fame) induction,” said MacLean, who added, “It’s great to be part of something of that breadth.”
MacLean and Cherry will be inducted along with pop crooner Michael Buble, three-time Olympic medalist rower Silken Laumann, award-winning author Lawrence Hill (The Book of Negroes), and actor Wendy Crewson (24, Saving Hope). The late actor Lorne Greene will also be posthumously honoured for his many roles, including on Bonanza and Battlestar Galactica.
MacLean, who grew up in Red Deer where he met his wife, Cari, feels getting a plaque embedded in the sidewalk of Canada’s largest city is something very public that can’t be tucked into a corner like a statuette.
He actually ended up giving away most of his TV awards trophies to lesser-known Canadians he felt were deserving of recognition. Among them is a Vancouver-area man who watched hockey with his blind friend so he could give him a play-by-play, and the family of Dan Snyder, the Ontario hockey player killed when his Atlanta Thrashers teammate Dany Heatley lost control of his Ferrari.
Heatley was charged with vehicular homicide, but Snyder’s parents never blamed him for the loss of their son, said MacLean, who was moved by their capacity for forgiveness.
Although the 55-year-old was sidelined from his former front-and-centre role hosting Hockey Night in Canada by new host George Stroumboulopoulos, he still joins Cherry on Coach’s Corner on Saturday nights.
MacLean said he always thought of his Hockey Night in Canada gig in the way that the late Peter Gzowski once described his CBC Radio show Morningside: “the show is like a river, not a lake. It will continue to carry on without me.” Nevertheless, he feels gratified to have helmed the beloved hockey commentary show for so many years.
He now travels the country every weekend for his Rogers Hometown Hockey show, which airs Sundays on Sportsnet. MacLean searches out a never-ending variety of hockey-related human interest stories in towns across the nation — including Red Deer, in which he reminisced about some his former schools, including St. Thomas Aquinas, and the coaches and referees that most influenced him while he was growing up.
One of his favourite referees was Bernie Haley of Innisfail, who officiated hockey games at the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics. But MacLean saw no mention of Haley in the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame when he last visited the facility, off Hwy 2 near Red Deer’s Heritage Ranch. While it’s an excellent museum, he said Haley “must have fallen through the cracks.”
MacLean feels that such is the fickle nature of fame that getting any kind of lasting recognition — such as the Walk of Fame induction — is truly lucky and “amazing.”