Hockey Night in Canada sportscaster Ron MacLean says he has already started packing for his trip to Yellowknife, and knows exactly how to beat the recent extreme NWT cold.
MacLean gave Mornings at the Cabin hosts Scott Letkeman and Jesse Wheeler an inside look at his choice of cold-weather gear ahead of Scotiabank Hockey Day in Canada, which comes to Yellowknife from February 5-8.
“I think I’m going to try battery-operated socks. I ordered a pair,” he said, the hint of a smile in his voice. “I don’t know, I’ll probably get electrocuted. I won’t die of frostbite, l’ll die of some kind of electrocution.”
MacLean will host a live 13-hour broadcast from Yellowknife’s Somba K’e Park on February 8, capping four days of hockey-themed activities in the city. He dismissed concerns the weather may linger below -40C for the outdoor marathon transmission.
“I’m used to cold weather. I don’t mind it one bit and can’t wait,” he told the show.
Listen to Ron MacLean’s full interview on the Mornings at the Cabin podcast (starts at the 9:45 mark).
A self-professed child of the North, MacLean said he spent five years in Whitehorse while his father was stationed there. He fell in love with hockey despite being unable to watch live television in his Yukon home at the time.
“I actually watched the ’67 Stanley Cup, when the Leafs won their last cup, on videotape a day late. That’s how it worked,” he remembered.
MacLean has already weathered some extraordinary cold spells for Hockey Day in Canada since the annual broadcast began in 2000.
For its second year, the event moved to Red Deer, Alberta, where the broadcast went ahead in -40C. “Everybody had frostbite, it was terrible,” he recalled.
Last year’s event in Swift Current, Saskatchewan was no picnic either, reaching -40C with wind as broadcasters remained outside for 90 minutes at a time.
In 2003, Hockey Day in Canada came from Iqaluit, where the weather didn’t faze the locals but MacLean described being wrapped up with only his nose showing. “All the wiring in the cameras contracted and snapped. We had no zoom capability on our cameras, we had to move the show indoors,” he said.
MacLean will be making his way to Yellowknife in February without Don Cherry, his broadcasting partner for decades, who was fired by Sportsnet in November. In a Coach’s Corner rant, Cherry claimed new immigrants to Canada do not wear poppies and do not support veterans.
Speaking to Cabin Radio, MacLean said the aftermath had left both broadcasters “slackjawed and, emotionally, a little bit weathered.” The two have not spoken since, MacLean said.
“We kind-of just made a pact to say, ‘Let’s give it some time.’ That’s how we’ve approached that. We’ll circle back,” he said.
“I love him, you know. I would hope that he still loves me.”
Cherry, nicknamed Grapes, has for decades made controversial on-air statements a calling card. What made it different this time, MacLean said, was the pace with which the remarks were consumed on social media.
“When the bosses went to Grapes and said, ‘Grapes, we need you to apologize and do some things,’ Don was just not ready to do that,” MacLean said. “He made a choice and it’s a really hard thing, I think, for a lot of people to reconcile … Don is not the type to take advice really. He knows he has to paddle his own canoe.”
Hockey Day(s) in Yellowknife
Hockey Day events in Yellowknife include a series of hockey games alongside sports and music evenings attended by a roster of NHL alumni, including Lanny McDonald, Darcy Tucker, and Wendel Clark.
A reception on Wednesday kicks off the festivities, with original “songs about the game of hockey” by local musicians Digawolf, Karen Novak of Welders Daughter, and Wesley Hardisty. Wednesday also features a draft where teams, including local residents, are picked for an NHL alumni game.
The city will go live across the country on Saturday, broadcasting on Sportsnet and CBC from Somba K’e Park next to pond hockey rinks constructed on Frame Lake. Yellowknife’s own hockey heroes Riley Oldford, Robin Mercer-Sproule, and the late Carl Bulger will be featured at the broadcast.
Throughout the week, hockey clinics for children and Challenge Cup games between Yellowknife’s high school teams are taking place. The city is hoping for hundreds of volunteers to pitch in over the four days.
Norman Wells and Délįne also get to experience some hockey magic that week, as the Stanley Cup will travel to those communities.
Cabin Radio will broadcast live from a range of Hockey Day in Canada events. Stay tuned for more details.