More of the same-old, same-old on HNIC

 

All those who worried that a new theme song might signal big changes at Hockey Night In Canada can put those concerns to rest.

 
 
 

All those who worried that a new theme song might signal big changes at Hockey Night In Canada can put those concerns to rest.

Sure, there has been some tinkering with the pre-game show and the second intermission. And fans in these parts will see a lot more of Jim Hughson and Craig Simpson and a lot less of Bob Cole and Greg Millen.

But based on the Saturday night opener, it's pretty much business as usual at CBC. And that means plenty of the expected and plenty of focus on the Toronto Maple Leafs, even though CBC's favourite team appears to be the worst in the country.

The pre-game show has been given a big facelift and looks a lot more interesting, especially the round-table chat featuring Kelly Hrudey, Mike Milbury and Ron MacLean.

But the show's first feature was, you guessed it, a look at Leafs coach Ron Wilson.

Yes, Wilson is new to Toronto, but the Ottawa Senators have a new coach, too.

But at the CBC, the mantra has always been: If it's blue, it will do.

The same-old, same-old continued in the first intermission when the team's No.1 fan, Don Cherry, went into his trademark paranoid-old-man act and knocked the Leafs for favouring Europeans over Ontario boys.

He noted that the pro-Euro lobby was everywhere, illustrating his point by complaining that Canadian junior phenom John Tavares was now considered second to Victor Hedman, "a Swede, naturally."

Apparently, the Euro lobby got to the NHL scouts. Who knows what's next on the Swedes' list of targets?

When MacLean offered a mild bit of disagreement, Cherry thundered, "What, are you against Canadians now?"

It would all be quite funny if Cherry didn't really believe this and if we hadn't seen it all a thousand times before.

The second intermission talkfest is also an upgrade, partly because the set that looked like a dark hotel lobby has been replaced by something more hockey-oriented. The chat was interesting, but would be a lot more so if panellist Al Strachan didn't continuously snipe at the others while they were talking.

Highlight guy P.J. Stock was new last year and still looks new, mainly because he fumbles over his words like a rookie. He also showed that fisticuffs will continue to get more air time than they merit, including two goals and three fights in his highlight package.

Being conservative isn't necessarily a bad thing, since the show is Canada's most popular hockey broadcast and massive changes might be a shock to the system of those who tune in regularly.

But you might think that changing times and changing standings would produce a few more upgrades.

czelkov@thestar.ca

 
 
 
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