If it weren’t for the inviting nature of Whitehorse residents, CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada just might not be the same, particularly Coach’s Corner.
CBC personality Ron Mac-Lean, who has been a host of Hockey Night since 1986 and will be in town for Hockey Day in Canada on February 12, put on his first pair of skates and discovered a love for the game while living in Whitehorse as a kid.
“The first real memories of my life (were in Whitehorse),” said MacLean in an interview with the News.
“Mom and Dad were not sports enthusiasts, they were more into politics and the arts.
“Our neighbour invited me to go play shinny across the street. That’s where it all started - it really did.
“I have basic memories of the rink. I remember the floodlights impressed me, I remember shoveling snow and chewing sap - we used to pick the sap off the spruce trees on our breaks and chew the sap like chewing gum. I have better memories of the scene than actually playing.”
Over the last week, Ron MacLean and dozens of other celebrity names - both inside and outside of hockey - have poured out of the local organizing committee of Scotiabank Hockley Day in Canada.
MacLean, who lived in Whitehorse from age four to eight in the mid 1960s, one time living at 102 Park Lane in Hillcrest, will be joined by other CBC names as Don Cherry, Kelly Hrudey, Scott Oake, Kevin Weekes, Jeff Marek, Scott Morisson, Cassie Campbell-Pascall, Jim Robson, Brad May and Peter Mansbridge, anchor for The National.
The list does not come close to ending there. Other big names in Whitehorse for the four days of activity surrounding Hockey Day are former NHLers Trevor Linden, Wendel Clarke, Grant Jennings and Mark Napier.
Also on the roster for the celebrations are Olympic gold medalists Kelly Bechard and Danielle Goyette.
Among the clinics, shinny games and visits by the Stanley Cup and Memorial Cup, there are a few big-ticket events taking place through the week.
While CBC airs its 13.5 hour broadcast featuring all six Canadian NHL teams squaring off, Takhini Arena will be the scene of a WHL showdown between the Vancouver Giants and the Kamloops Blazers. Unfortunately, the one Yukoner who should be at the sold-out game, won’t be.
Whitehorse native Jerrett Deuling, who played for the Blazers from 1991-1994, winning two Memorial Cups and playing his final season with them as captain, will be away on business.
“I wish they would have done this when I was still playing,” said Deuling. “It would have been a dream come true to be able to play at home. I’m really disappointed I can’t be there at the game and attend the event. It’s going to be a good time for Whitehorse, and Whitehorse is a very deserving city to host something like that.”
Fans who want to cheer for a home team won’t be left out. A squad of Ottawa Senators alumni and a Dawson City Nuggets team, made up from a hodgepodge of Yukoners, will square off in pair of games on February 9 at Takhini Arena and February 10 in Dawson City. (Tickets are still available at Sport Yukon).
The games will be a quasi-rematch of the famed 1905 Stanley Cup challenge in which a team from Dawson travelled to the nation’s capital to take on the then NHL champion Senators. (See box for team rosters).
Aside from a community banquet on the Friday, the other big event is the sold out Stolen from a Hockey Card film and music presentation at the Yukon Arts Centre.
The festival will feature music from Sarah Harmer, Dave Bidini and BidiniBand, C.R. Avery, Weakerthans’ frontman John K Samson, Buck 65, Geoff Berner, Kim Barlow, and will be hosted by Canadian comedian Jon Dore and MacLean, who has only returned to Whitehorse once since leaving in 1968.
“I remember on my return visit being blown away by the Yukon River,” said MacLean. “I don’t know how I didn’t remember that. I remembered a lot about the town - Moccasin Flats, Two Mile Hill, Takhini and the hot springs, Marsh Lake, Carcross - but I did not remember the Yukon River being so impressive.”
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