Ron MacLean returns home this weekend

Memo to Saratoga Restaurant staff: you might want to stock up on hot turkey sandwiches this weekend. One of your biggest fans could very well be stopping by for one of his favourite meals.

Last name: MacLean. First name: Ron.

Ron MacLean in Edmonton, hosting the 1984 Edmonton Oiler Re-union

Ron MacLean in Edmonton, hosting the 1984 Edmonton Oiler Re-union

He will be passing the Saratoga several times this weekend, on his trips between Edmonton and Red Deer, where Ron began his broadcasting career.

His role was play-by-play man of the Red Deer Rustlers of the Alberta Junior Hockey League. He tells the story of traveling on the team bus for a road game against the Fort Saskatchewan Traders.

The best part of the trip? Stopping at the Saratoga, on the south outskirts of Edmonton, for hot turkey sandwiches.

Ron joined Rogers Sportsnet over the summer after they scooped the NHL television rights from CBC. In his new role, Ron will be visiting arenas throughout Canada on weekends, telling grass root hockey stories. This weekend, Hometown Hockey rolls into Red Deer, very familiar to Ron.

“It’s hard to tell stories when you’re in the television studio,” Ron says over the telephone from his Oakville Home. “I love meeting the people in communities and telling their stories about the game.”

The gig isn’t all new to Ron: he hosted Hockey Day in Canada for CBC on a Saturday throughout the country. It was a long day, providing cut-ins between three NHL games.

“I like the fact our new show is on Sunday. Over the years of Hockey Day we heard many people missed it because they were busy with their own hockey activities on Saturday,” says Ron.

His weekends are busy. Ron is on television live from Toronto with Don Cherry on Coaches Corner. He either catches a red-eye from Toronto to his destination late Saturday or catches an 8 a.m. flight Sunday.

This weekend, though, is different. Ron and Don will be in Edmonton and will broadcast Coaches Corner early Saturday evening from a Rexall Place television studio before the Edmonton Oilers host the Vancouver Canucks.

Ron will be in Red Deer Sunday for Hometown Hockey beginning at 3:30 p.m. from the Red Deer Arena.

It’s a sweet homecoming for Ron, who was inspired to become a broadcaster by listening to 630 CHED in the early 1970’s. He credits current 630 CHED morning man Bruce Bowie, who was in on the air in the mid-day slot, for helping form his career.

In fact, Ron was on the 630 CHED Morning News with Bruce Thursday and thanked Bruce who critiqued a tape  critiquing a tape — and then sent it back to Ron in Red Deer.

Another connection involves Sportsnet’s Alison Redmond who writes the Hometown Hockey script. Alison is married to Sportsnet’s Jamie Campbell, who worked for CBC television sports in Edmonton in the 1990’s.

And then there’s the re-union with the Sutter brothers, who traveled south from their Viking home to play for the Rustler’s in Red Deer.

Ron notes Red Deer had prints on several championships last season: Darryl Sutter, won his second Stanley Cup championship with the Los Angeles Kings; Mike Babock coached Canada to Olympic gold in Russia and coached the Red Deer College Kings; and Derek Laxdal, who coached the Edmonton Oil Kings to a Memorial Cup championship last May had a brief stint as a player with the Red Deer Rebels.

“It will be great to go back,” says Ron.

(Cam  Tait is the special projects advisor at Challenge Insurance)

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