TORONTO – Ron MacLean is officially back as host of Hockey Night in Canada, returning to the chair he occupied for nearly 30 years before being ousted in favour of music journalist and CBC talk show star George Stroumboulopoulos.
MacLean will host the early game on Saturday night next season while David Amber will take the helm for the late broadcast, Sportsnet announced Monday.
Stroumboulopoulos is leaving “to explore new creative opportunities,” according to a Sportsnet release.
Stroumboulopoulos signed a five-year deal to host Hockey Night in Canada in 2014 after Rogers acquired the NHL rights in a 12-year, $5.2-billion agreement. Pushing MacLean aside was a controversial decision by the broadcaster, with Stroumboulopoulos seen by many fans as an outsider who didn’t have the necessary hockey background to replace his experienced predecessor.
MacLean, 56, saw his role reduced to being Don Cherry’s sidekick on Coach’s Corner and hosting Hometown Hockey, a Sunday night show that he will continue to front despite his expanded Saturday night duties. He will also keep his job alongside Cherry, who recently agreed to a new contract.
“Hockey Night in Canada is a tradition unlike anything else in this country,” Scott Moore, president of Sportsnet and NHL properties, said in a release. “It’s part of our national DNA, and so is Ron. It’s a balance of giving our fans what they want and evolving the broadcasts to keep them fresh.”
News that the 43-year-old Stroumboulopoulos, a six-time Gemini Award winner, was on his way out was first reported a week ago by the Toronto Star.
“George is an extremely versatile and creative broadcaster and we value the contributions he made to Hockey Night in Canada,” said Moore. “We look forward to seeing what his next great project will be.”
It’s been a tough year for Sportsnet’s hockey coverage, with no Canadian teams making the playoffs and a last-place performance by the Toronto Maple Leafs, usually a big ratings draw for the network.
Audience levels fell below the million mark for many early-round playoff games this season. While ratings improved for the Stanley Cup final, they were down on average from last season.
Panellists Elliotte Friedman, Kelly Hrudey and Nick Kypreos will join MacLean and Amber in-studio Saturday nights. Daren Millard will continue to host the Wednesday night show alongside Friedman and Doug MacLean.
A veteran broadcaster, Amber has been a reporter with Hockey Night in Canada for the past five years.