It feels like a significant story is being underplayed. Kevin Weekes, the former goalie who has worked for NHL Network, will be the first Afro-Canadian commentator on HNIC. That matters since it was kind of the last barrier for Canadian sports broadcasters who are visible minority, plus it shows that has finally dawned on CBC Sports that maintaining the illusion that the Canada of 1981 still exists is a sure path to obsolescence.
About a year ago, the Toronto Star's Chris Zelkovich, during a radio interview with my friend Tyler King, said the rub with HNIC is that you know what you're getting. That has two sides.
The NHL has opened a season in Stockholm, a team with seven Swedes has won a Stanley Cup, a player may tweet his own trade and the league is micturating all over antitrust law to keep Jim Balsillie from owning a team and do the bidding of some corporate crooks, but goddamn it, Hockey Night in Canada must sustain an illusion of permanency. It should feel like not all that has much changed since the days of the Original Six.
That has its good qualities, although like in anything, if you do something the same way you did five, 10, 20 years ago, it doesn't mean you're stable, it means you're stuck in a rut.
The flip side is lot of us feel like outsiders looking in on the conversation which takes place every Saturday between a bunch of white guys named Ron, Don and Mike. It feels like a bunch of guys having a bull session down at the Legion in Anytown, Canada, in 1975. That has its pluses, but perhaps that created the vacuum that led to Mike Milbury's idiotic "pansification" comment last season. Granted, Milbury's track record with the New York Islanders suggests his idiocy was a pre-existing condition.
Point being, it is also glaring who HNIC's has put on the air (and don't forget the hue-and-cry when Cassie Campbell pinch-hit as a colour commentator one night three years ago when Harry Neale was snowbound).
Almost every other broadcast outlet i Canada has commentators who are visible minority: Jock Climie and Duane Forde on TSN's CFL package; TSN reporters John Lu, Farhan Lalji and Jermain Franklin; Rogers Sportsnet's Ian Mendes and Paul Jones; Leafs TV/Raptors NBA TV's Adnan Virk; The Score's D.J. Bennett and Cabral (Cabbie) Richards.
Not to put words in anyone's mouth, but HNIC is still the holy grail, even if TSN does a better job of staying current with the NHL. . Perhaps it has changed, but back in the day the 18-year-old who dreamed of doing play-by-play said, "I'm going to be on Hockey Night in Canada," not, "I'm going to be on TSN."
That's why it is huge Weekes has been hired. He has to be judged on his own merits. One could certainly detect a sickly scent of the jockocracy since Weekes is stepping straight from the ice into a TV role (then again, Tie Domi did it three years ago and no one objected, until they actually saw him on the air).
We also know CBC Sports and Maple Leaf Sports Entertainment, Ltd., are oh-so-joined at the hip. MLSE has lost a lot of the generation coming up to other sports.
Ultimately, though, the big positive is that an important door has been opened. Weekes wrote a column in February that talked about Caribbean and Afro Canadians becoming a bigger part of the mainstream in Canada.
"Finance, government, arts, hospitality, community service, medicine, architecture and design, education and media are just a few of the sectors in which we've made inroads but certainly have yet to maximize our growth and impact. We can and must continue to advance in these and many other 'non-traditional' sectors.Well, what's more mainstream than Hockey Night in Canada? That is why any "great, another goalie getting an analyst job" reactions miss the point.
"There are countless examples of us paving the way in these sectors: Governor General Michaelle Jean, Toronto Deputy Chief of Police Keith Forde, Executive Chairman of AIC Limited, Michael Lee-Chin, Musician Kardinal Offishall, V.P of Blackmont Capital Steven Conville and retired Toronto Argonauts Player and Current President 'Pinball' Clemons."
New Voices At Hockey Night In Canada (Toronto Sports Media)