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Hometown Hockey circus to thrill all

By March 17, 2022March 21st, 2022No Comments
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Sportsnet’s Ron MacLean and Tara Slone will be hosting a viewing party and a pre-game National Hockey League show Monday afternoon at the Servus Sports Centre to wrap-up Rogers Hometown Hockey weekend in Lloydminster March 19-21.

We spoke with Maclean on Thursday morning to get the lowdown on what the event is all about and what it could mean to local hockey fans and players.

MacLean grew up in Red Deer and notes it might as well be Lloyd.

“It’s a very similar setting on the Prairies, so when you come in to Lloydminster, I have to wear my Alberta badge. It reminds me of home,” he said.

How would you describe the level of organization that goes into hosting a Hometown Hockey show?

It is a travelling circus and I’m always so impressed. SDI is the marketing company that runs the festival, puts up those beautiful illuminated hockey sticks and all the activations. It’s such a convergence.

For a young person in the business, the mix of broadcasting and hockey and government relations and sponsor activations, it’s really an amazing couple of days.

So, I think folks will enjoy it as much as we do.

Is Hometown Hockey a labour of love for you and Tara?

Absolutely. When I was a boy we had Bobby Hull. He went to Lloydminster and spoke to the Border Kings when they were champions led by Byron McCrimmon, the father of Kelly the GM in Vegas (Golden Knights) and the late Brad McCrimmon.

Bobby came to speak at a Border Kings event and he came to Whitehorse, Yukon where my father was stationed in the air force. It just such an impact to have an NHLer come and make the whole thing a firsthand experience.

I think Tara, she’s got a background in rock and roll singing and knows the connection between a band and a listener and certainly as a hockey fan we know the connection to the NHL. A lot of the alumni will help us out this weekend. It’s definitely a labour of love.

What will it will mean to minor hockey teams to have national TV exposure?

I think from the Bobcats to the Rustlers to all the children playing the game, it’s more a thank you. I don’t know—maybe they draw inspiration from the fact if the lens is pointed at them. But I just think it’s just a really nice thank you.

I’ll give you an example. For years, I worked as the honorary chairman of the Canadian Paraplegic Association. So I would go in and visit spinal cord injury (hockey) patients in rehab centres across the country, and in a lot of ways it felt like I was doing it more for the doctors and therapists as much as for the family and for the injured, because there’s just so many people that work hard to make the game happen.

I think that’s what nice about Hometown Hockey. It’s a salute to the volunteers, to the backbone of the game.

Based on your Hockey Day in Canada visit in 2014, what is your impression of our community support for hockey? This is a hockey mad town.

It really is. I remember for Hockey Day in Canada, I wore a Flames hat and an Edmonton and Saskatchewan Roughriders half and half sweater. The sports love is deep and we had Kurt Bensmiller as a chuckwagon world champion and Calgary Stampede champion driver as part of the broadcast and Carly Agro from Sportsnet got her career started in Lloydminster.

She’s doing the opening essay on the broadcast on Monday night. She tells a lot of great stories about raising money for the Bobcats to keep the team in town and also there’s been so much done for the hospital— what a spirit—the whole barn-raising philosophy, it’s right there in Lloydminster as a shining example.

Does the event leave a legacy for communities in terms of tourism for example?

Lloydminster doesn’t have this issue, but I will say Fort McMurray might have had a perception of not being as pretty as it is. There’s sometimes when we go into a town, you just don’t realize it’s beauty until we get there and get to show a whole different side.

If everybody thought Fort McMurray was just an oil sands project, they wouldn’t realize it’s got a boreal forest and rivers and valleys.

In the case of Lloyd, I remember when we came out to do hockey day— just the beauty of Justamere Farms—just the blue skies and the fields were just such nice setting for our show.

I don’t know if that promotes tourism, but it certainly gives a chance for us to show off a place.