Ron MacLean is anticipating a fabulous trip down memory lane during his time at Rogers Hometown Hockey in Lacombe this weekend. MacLean and Tara Slone will serve as hosts, there will be meet-and-greet opportunities with NHL alumni Rich Sutter and Darcy Tucker, plenty of live local entertainment and lots of fun activities for the whole family.
Meanwhile, the famed broadcaster, who hails from Red Deer, has certainly made his mark on the Canadian landscape as a polished and accomplished journalist in his own right – from those early days at CKRD when one of his tasks was doing the weather at 6 p.m.
That was way back in the early 1980s he noted during a chat from Oakville, Ontario.
Surprisingly, his whole foray into journalism wasn’t exactly a planned thing – MacLean had originally wanted to head to the University of Alberta and earn his education degree.
“What happened was when you were the noon to 4 p.m. DJ on CKRD radio – it didn’t matter who you were – you are the weather presenter on TV at 6 p.m.,” he said with a laugh. “You got off the shift at 4 p.m,. you did a few commercials and go on TV and present the weather.”
But it was key experiences like that that helped provide the foundation of a tremendously successful career in broadcasting. Interestingly, MacLean had no inkling of an impending career breakthrough that would lead to such exciting, international opportunities over the years.
“I’ve written about in my book – I’ve always been kind of stumbling along with good luck and happenstance,” he said, reflecting.
“And I always feel guilty when I do those talks at a school career day – I’m supposed to give motivational pep talks, and I always revert to this idea of how this magic wand seemed to keep hitting me on the head and driving me in new directions.
“But I ended up with a job that I enjoy – I loved hockey and I loved to watch it, too. I sort of had built my whole childhood around watching sports.
“I was an only child, so when I wasn’t out playing, I would be in my bedroom watching sports on television,” he said. “That’s how life is – I ended up stumbling into radio in Red Deer and I had no ambition to do that – I wanted to go to U of A and become a teacher.”
But through a chain of events, MacLean ended up filling in for a high school friend at CKRD.
“Then I got to be a DJ, and before you know it, I was introducing songs. That teaches you about timing – it teaches you how long a four-second intro is versus a 22 second intro.
“So when you had to craft your on-air bit, you had to mentally edit it to get a sense of time. That was such a gift for television – not even knowing at the time I would be doing television,” he said. “But I was inadvertendly getting lucky and training for the career.
“It will be a convergence of it all this weekend,” he noted of the Rogers Hometown Hockey event, something he is of course personally looking forward to as well with his many connections to Central Alberta.
“We had our engagement photos taken at the Lacombe Nurseries in 1981,” he said, adding that his wife Cari will be joining him on the trip out west.
He also remembers being struck by the talents of the Sutter family as the guys rose in their individual hockey careers both on the home front and beyond. “To see the Sutters repeatedly coming out of Viking, into Red Deer, into Lethbridge and onto the big show – it seemed like an achievable goal,” he said of the inspiration that family provided to countless local youth. “You could just see that they had something,” he said, adding that Lacombe ball games were also a popular past-time back in the day as well. “There’s a lot of stuff that will be flooding back,” he added. “I’ll try to not get too reflective on the show, but boy, it will be there.
“What am I looking forward to? The whole thing!”
Meanwhile, there will be something for each member of the family to enjoy during the Rogers Hometown Hockey Tour.
Highlights include feature games, prize giveaways, fun activities and live local entertainment.
There will also be a photo-op with the Stanley Cup – get a chance to see the greatest trophy in sports up close-and-personal as the Stanley Cup visits Lacombe.
For MacLean, visiting communities across the nation for events like Rogers Hometown Hockey is always a joy. This man has a passion for Canadian communities, and it shines through at every turn.
And over the years, his commitment and love for Central Alberta hasn’t dimmed one bit.
“My friends are really close-knit and I’ll see them all on the 48 hours I’m there,” he said. “Your heart gets really filled with appreciation for a Red Deer upbringing.”
For details, visit Rogers Hometown Hockey at www.hometownhockey.com.