Toronto through the eyes of Ron MacLean
Ron MacLean is best known as the yin to Don Cherry's yang, the rails beneath the inter-city express of hockey's loudest and most out-spoken character. As a high-level referee, MacLean is a natural mediator and his thoughtful and poetic additions to the CBC's flagship hockey broadcast provide a welcome break from the game's uglier moments.
Speaking ahead of last weekend's Hockey Night in Canada launch, MacLean took time to indulge in some hand-wringing over the Toronto Maple Leafs' prospects (natch) and toss around some ideas for the ideal Toronto day out. He might live in Oakville, but MacLean is well-informed when it comes to Toronto's culture and its municipal politics.
I guess the first thing I should ask about is the Leafs - there's a new GM and it's a shortened season, do you think could that work in the team's favour?
Well, it's obviously impossible to know. One thing you could maybe point to is a year ago 48 games into the season they were home and cool and looked like they were going to make the Stanley Cup play-offs and then they fell off the cliff.
I think they can make it. They're in a very tough conference, the teams in the east are formidable, and it's by no means a cakewalk. Ottawa has a couple of injuries that may affect their team and they may have a regression after a great surprise year, as sometimes happens, but they could be the team the Leafs could displace. It won't be easy for them.
Do you think the Leafs are the type of team to hit the ground running? It's always difficult when there's a change at the top.
If Joffrey Lupul is healthy, and he appears to be [uh-oh], that line is impressive. I'm a big Tyler Bozak fan - I know one of the knocks on the Leafs has been their inability to attract a number one centre...but I do like that line of Bozak, Kessel, and Joffrey Lupul. Any team that has a bit of chemistry will have an advantage.
When we've had short seasons in the past there were no 3-point games. The NHL's so tight, there's so much parity. I really believe the only thing that will settle it is injuries this year. Teams that can stay injury free, that will be the ticket ... Vancouver is already starting to crumble, and you worry about the Canucks...
Speaking of the Canucks, Luongo is a big name being tossed around for the Leafs. Do you think a trade could happen?
I wouldn't do it to get rid of Bozak and Jake Gardiner. The rumour was Tyler Bozak and Jake Gardiner for Luongo. I would be leery of that trade. I would put my confidence in Scrivens and Reimer; it's never good to have two young goalies but Scrivens is 26 and Reimer is 24. I think they can handle it. I would go for them over Luongo, but that's just me ... I think he's a great goalie but I'd be surprised if he'd want to come to Toronto.
You're local, you live in Oakville, so I'm going to ask you about some of your favourite places in the city. Where do you like to go after the night's done?
I love Ossington, I'm a big fan of Baldwin Street - those are if I get a chance to go for dinner. I have tons of restaurants I could name but I just enjoy the city for the restaurant scene. We tend to go to Earls, it's just down the street [from the CBC] and that's one of our hangouts after the game...it's easy for a beer. Beerbistro, we do Irish Embassy, P.J. O'Brien, those are the sort of spots that we go.
If you could plan an ideal night out, you're off work, how would you do it?
That's a good idea. I would say an ideal evening would be maybe to stroll around Yorkville, just do a little bit of shopping because there's more unique places there, then I would head for a nice dinner because I'm going to go the Dakota or the Horseshoe, it would be either one depending on who's playing.
If I'm going to the Dakota for drinks I would eat at on King Street. If I'm going to the Horseshoe, I might go to eat somewhere on Ossington. You can't go wrong.
Do you have a favourite neighbourhood?
I like Queen Street ... the city offers so much. The Annex is great ... when we did Battle of the Blades over at Pinewood studios the east end was nice.
Have you been following what's happening with City Hall and Rob Ford?
I know Grapes is a huge supporter, obviously, he did the investiture for Rob Ford ... what I think is interesting about the Rob Ford administration, and I don't know if it's social media that's made it this way, is ... transparency. You hear that all the time, "transparency," and I think this [administration] has been forced into a healthy light.
We obviously have the mayors of Montreal and Laval stepping down in a corruption scandal. We have Idle No More, the whole divide with the Assembly of First Nations trying to sort out who should be the one saying what, and rather than anyone shutting anybody down there has been transparency foist on us, and I think that's healthy.
Rob Ford, if he had to do it again, has clearly said he would handle things differently. I think what we're gleaning out of the new world order, as I said, maybe it's social media that's driven it, but there finally is some transparency. I have always lived in my world as an enemy of secret sources. I don't hold up Woodward and Bernstein as my idols for Mark Felt at the FBI and taking down a president. I want to know who the source is.
And for Del Grande, who sounds like a noble guy, to be upset that they would question him just doesn't ring quite right to me. I have pride too, I get my knickers in a knot about a lot of things, but any time you're hauled on the carpet and asked to explain yourself, and any time you're looked on by the Twitterverse, that's good.
We're going to find out soon if Rob Ford stays or goes, do you have a preference?
It seems to me he came in a time of fiscal responsibility. Clearly his leanings don't appear to be left-wing social programs - his leanings are right-wing, and budgetary, and financial, but you need both. We have to swing both ways.
I'm thinking Kathleen Wynne, I'd like to see her take the nomination for Ontario, so I'd like to see that healthy voice from both sides, which is key to the Coach's Corner.
So health is the way forward, health and transparency for the city and hockey maybe as well?
Whether it's Margaret Atwood, there'll always be someone to be the bee in Rob Ford's bonnet ... and I like it.
I've always felt politics is a noble profession, there isn't one that's in it that wouldn't point out it's a dirty game, but in all the issues we're examining, whether it's Jodie Foster at the Golden Globes, or whether it's Newtown, Barack Obama, and the NRA, there a lot of good examples of what Obama called "teachable moments."
I always hoped that for our world - obviously the First Nations one is such a part of our history - it's just really exciting to see us forced to think about these things and decide our priorities.
Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.