When he was a kid in Whitehorse, where his father was stationed in the Royal Canadian Air Force, Ron MacLean remembers standing in line for an hour to get Bobby Hull’s autograph.
In Halifax, MacLean met hockey legends Jean Beliveau and Gordie Howe, each smiling for autographs and spending time with kids.
It’s those memories that fuels MacLean’s passion for hockey, and his passion as a co-host travelling across the country during hockey season for Rogers Sportsnet Hometown Hockey, which broadcasts live from Vernon City Hall this afternoon.
“Sunday night is an extension of Saturday night,” said MacLean from Toronto Friday, the day before his regular weekend gig as host of Hockey Night In Canada. He then flies out Sunday morning to join up with the Hometown Hockey crew.
“What I love about Sunday night is we are able to take viewers everywhere in Canada.”
MacLean will join co-host Tara Slone to broadcast live from Spirit Square starting with the Rogers Sportsnet Hometown Hockey pre-game show at 4 p.m. The broadcast game between the Vancouver Canucks and Chicago Blackhawks starts at 4:30 p.m.
“I’ll do some meet and greet before the show, then after the game starts, I’ll be able to sign autographs and pose for pictures. I love that part,” said MacLean, 56, who lists Red Deer as his hometown.
MacLean is quite familiar with the Okanagan. A May long weekend in the MacLean household including downhill skiing at Sunshine Village in Banff or at Lake Louise, then heading west for some waterskiing on Okanagan Lake at Westbank.
He is also quite familiar with hockey in smalltown Canada.
MacLean recalls refereeing a Junior C level game in Ontario between the Paris Mounties and Rockton Real McCoys.
“I was standing at centre ice; the teams had their pre-game warm-ups so the players were standing for the national anthem with steam rising off their necks; the anthem was sung sweetly by a local singer,” he said. “I loved it.”
It’s places like Paris and Rockton and Thompson, Man. or Petawawa, Ont., he said, where the Hometown Hockey tour really hit home.
In Vernon, MacLean and Slone will be joined by NHL alumni Kirk McLean, Russ Courtnall, Brent Gilchrist and Dean McAmmond, the latter two who live in the Okanagan.
Slone will host the Scotiabank Hotstove on the main stage at 12:30 p.m. with McLean and Courtnall. Fans can get autographs from both players at the autograph tent at 1 p.m.
There will be two performances of The Hockey Circus Show on-stie at 1:15 p.m. and 3:30 p.m .
Slone and MacLean will be at the Broadcast Studio for the Hometown Hockey Live Pre-Game Show at 4 p.m. The NHL game between the Vancouver Canucks and Chicago Blackhawks will be on Sportsnet at 4:30 p.m. The game will include stories from Vernon including that of Larry Kwong, the first Asian-Canadian to play in the NHL in 1948.
Traffic on 30th Street between 32nd and 35th Avenues is, again, closed for the duration of today.
The roadway will reopen to the public in the early hours Monday.
See Sunday’s newspaper for a list of today’s events or click here.