Rogers has unveiled its new play-by-play team for next season and it's full of familiar, established voices. Is that a good thing or should the broadcaster have taken more chances?
Canadians have to love what they've seen and heard on the CBC and TSN throughout the 2014 playoffs. The hockey has been fantastic and we've enjoyed memorable calls from Jim Hughson and Bob Cole on CBC and Gord Miller on TSN, among others. There's been a prevailing sense of uncertainty behind the broadcasts, however. Canadian hockey coverage as we know it changes next season, when Rogers begins its 12-year reign as national NHL carrier. The CBC and Hockey Night in Canada will limp on under Rogers' control for the next four years, while TSN has been relegated to regional broadcasts.
The question on many a mind has been: who will call the games for the Rogers juggernaut next season? And Rogers has answered it officially. See the press release here.
The new lineup consists of a slam-dunk, a sentimental fave, an announcer on the rise and a the return of a somewhat forgotten face. Should Canadians be happy about that?
Jim Hughson was the shoo-in. He's the best hockey announcer in the country if not the world, Canada's answer to Doc Emrick. There's nothing classic about Hughson's smooth, glossy voice, but it befits the modern era. More importantly, there's no better observer and evaluator of the action in the biz.
Bob Cole is polarizing at 80 years old. He misses as many calls as he makes, but Rogers decided his classic, urgent sound was too beloved to let go. He still possesses the voice that makes us run from the kitchen toward the televsion and, as my colleague Brian Costello reminds us, that quality remains indispensable.
Dave Randorf, while primarily a CFL guy with TSN, has been a fixture on the local circuit covering the Montreal Canadiens for the last four seasons and has lots of international experience covering events like the world juniors.
Paul Romanuk is back after several years overseas. He's a familiar voice to hockey fans as well, having covered the Montreal Canadiens for years and having called many world junior championships.
Note the similarities between Randorf and Romanuk. Has Rogers not hired the same guy twice in this case? I've always found their voices similar, to boot. It's nothing against either broadcaster, as each is qualified to succeed in his new gig. But it would've been nice to see a more progressive hire here – if not instead of, at least on top of, these choices.
Remember when Rogers took the risk on young, fresh voice for its host and picked George Stroumboulopoulos? Why not apply the same logic to announcers, whether that meant trying a younger announcer from the junior ranks, hiring a voice from another sport, seeking out a modern-sounding broadcaster like Gary Thorne or trying to poach a respected local tandem like Dallas' Ralph Strangis and Daryle Reaugh? (I know those two just signed extensions. Just using them as an example.
In a perfect world though, we'd see Chris Cuthbert calling games for Rogers next season. He boasts a beautiful mix of Hughson's intelligence and Cole's old-timey sound. Alas, TSN locked him up for six years. Smart move, though it means he'll call a lot more CFL football than he will any kind of hockey.
Solid, safe choices, Rogers. But a home run lineup? No. Call it a ground-rule double.
Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin