The CBC's Ron MacLean Thursday tried to clarify comments he made prior to the start of Wednesday's Rangers-Capitals Game Six, in which he appeared to compare the players on the two teams to the first responders to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He appeared on "Prime Time Sports" on Toronto's CJCL-AM and said, “It’s Washington and New York, and I go back-and-forth looking at those two cityscapes and it just struck me as I watched the series played out that many of the traits that the players demonstrate are those of firefighters and police officers. I know full well that you don’t make a link between that and 9/11 in the sense of the first-responders. But I very much felt that the essence of those two cities, being the political and economic hubs of America, they are just such symbolic towns, and the style of the game represented what I think is symbolic of a hockey player. If I was going to pay them the ultimate compliment to the way they were playing, it would be to say you’re playing like a firefighter or police officer. Not a 9/11 first-responder, but I was trying to marry those ideas.” MacLean aded, “I wanted to make it clear that I am not connecting the work of the first-responders at that time. But I wanted to sow the seed of the spirit of what they did has to come from somewhere, and it comes from the kinds of things you see players doing in these games, and I said that.” More MacLean: "My intentions were clearly to pay homage to the police and firefighters in those two cities, simple as that, and sort of compliment the players. Was it done well? Obviously not” ("Prime Time Sports," CJCL-AM, 5/10).
COMING TO HIS PARTNER'S DEFENSE: The CP's Jason Keller noted the CBC's Don Cherry has "come to the defence" of MacLean, his "HNIC" co-host. Cherry said Thursday, “I couldn’t believe it when the boss came in during the end of the second period and said people were upset. I think what happens is people don’t think as much of hockey players as we love hockey players. We think hockey players are the top people in the world. We think they’re tough, that’s all Ron was doing. For people to take it out of context is just unbelievable to me" (CP, 5/10). Cherry added, "I think it's ridiculous. It's just people trying to stir up trouble, I guess" (TORONTO SUN, 5/10).
NOT A GOOD DECISION: In Montreal, Pat Hickey writes MacLean "took a stab at gravitas Wednesday night and the result was that he embarrassed himself and CBC." MacLean was "just plain dumb -- not to mention insensitive -- when he compared a group of highly paid, privileged athletes with true heroes." Hickey: "The sad part of this story is that it shows an inherent weakness at the public broadcaster, which has failed to address the issue. The controversy could have been avoided if someone at Hockey Night in Canada had the cajones to take control and vet this material before it got on the air" (Montreal GAZETTE, 5/11). The GLOBE & MAIL's Bruce Dowbiggin asks, "Who’s producing these shows that MacLean can get to air with such twaddle? Is there no vetting of his script? He’s in a CBC headquarters in Toronto thick with suits. Surely there must be someone who can pass an eye over these scripts in advance. Instead CBC prefers to rewrite the script the next day. Strange" (GLOBE & MAIL, 5/11). However, in Toronto, Steve Buffery writes MacLean "shouldn't be overly lambasted." He issued a "clarification on Thursday afternoon, saying that hockey games in no way compare with first responders." Buffery: "Fair enough. MacLean means well and he’s a very fine broadcaster. Maybe he just needs an impartial set of eyes to go over his copy before the red light comes on" (TORONTO SUN, 5/11).