Poll: Canadians missing Ron MacLean, not sold on Strombo

A poll from Angus Reid says 'Hockey Night in Canada' viewers aren't yet sold on the new hosting arrangement led by George Stroumboulopoulos

Hockey Night in Canada host George Stroumboulopoulos took over the reigns from former frontman Ron McLean before the 2014-15 NHL season.

Consider us unimpressed. Or waiting. Patient, yes, but the early votes aren’t flattering.

According to a recent poll from Angus Reid, Canadians are half-panning new Hockey Night in Canada host George Stroumboulopoulos. They’re also praising the once-everywhere Ron MacLean, the CBC’s most present hockey personality for the past decade whose role was shrunk with Rogers’ takeover of the landmark telecast this fall.

“The decision to have Stroumboulopoulos – a well-known talk show host with an established interest in hockey – helm the new broadcast was a calculated risk for Rogers Communications, aimed in part at attracting a younger viewing audience,” reads Angus Reid’s press release, sent out on Tuesday.

“It would appear existing viewers are still adjusting to the change.”

In the poll, 74 per cent of respondents answered that MacLean’s “reduced role on the broadcast has hurt the show’s brand,” and 48 per cent said they are currently seeing MacLean “too little”.

Perhaps worse, only eight per cent said Stromboulopoulos, MacLean and Cherry are “clicking together” on air and 27 per cent said the trio has “no chemistry” – however, a patient 65 per cent said they were “coming along” as a team.

60 per cent of the poll’s respondents said they don’t think Stromboulopoulos is a “credible replacement” for MacLean, and only eight per cent of respondents said they’re seeing “too little” of Strombo.

Strombo (as he’s affectionately known) has taken over for MacLean on HNIC‘s main panel, where he sits and tosses questions to guests and analysts. MacLean – who had for several years warmed the seat Strombo now sits in – now works on Rogers’ Sunday night ‘Hometown Hockey’ broadcasts and anchors the popular Saturday night ‘Coach’s Corner’ segments with his longtime alpha running mate, Don Cherry.

Last Saturday, Cherry appeared to complain on national TV – during ‘Coach’s Corner’ – about the new arrangement, with MacLean by his side.

“Are we over yet?” Cherry asked MacLean, one minute into their segment. He then repeated that theme in bullet points for the rest of the five-minute broadcast: “I gotta hurry, folks… I gotta talk fast. You’ve gotta pay attention to me, ’cause I don’t get much time…”

When MacLean prefaced a discussion with “Because we’re tight, Don,” Cherry responded: “Tight. Why are we tight? Why are we tight? … I gotta hurry… We gotta end right now, folks. I’m sorry, I just got on and we have to end… sorry, kids. I have to hurry and talk as fast as this.”

While the new Hockey Night still finds its footing and relocates its fans, it appears hockey is as important to 1Canadians as it could hope to be. (And perhaps that’s why respondents favoured tradition over gloss and whatever $5.2 billion has bought.)

“When asked specifically about the National Hockey League (NHL), the vast majority (78%) said NHL hockey is either important or very important to Canadian culture and identity,” reports Angus Reid.

The poll surveyed 1,504 Canadian adults, according to the Globe and Mail, which quoted MacLean as supporting Strombo in his new, heavy gig:

“George will be fine. He’s in the same crosshairs I found myself once upon a time.

“It really comes down to the branding, and branding is three things: frequency, consistency and then anchoring… Anchoring is the tricky one to explain, but anchoring is how something makes you feel, a Rockwell painting. Certain things just evoke a good warm and fuzzy feeling.

“That branding takes place over quite a period of time, so that’s what always gives the incumbent the edge.”

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VIDEO: New Hockey Night in Canada ‘dream team’ unveiled in Toronto (March 11, 2014)