BACK IN THE SADDLE!!
Date: Friday, October 04 2002
Ron MacLean, CBC ink new deal
TORONTO -- Ron MacLean and the CBC have kissed and made up - all that's left is for the Brinks truck to be summoned.
MacLean and Nancy Lee, the head of CBC Sports, announced last night that the veteran broadcaster had agreed on a multi-year deal to host Hockey Night in Canada and other sporting events for the network.
Financial terms were not disclosed.
An overwhelmed MacLean last night paid tribute to the multitude of fans and sponsors who supported him after he and the corporation initially parted ways Monday.
"I always cringe a little when someone talks about their fans," MacLean said.
"I obviously felt a great, overwhelming sense of appreciation from the viewers and that's the relationship, the bond, that you always try to strike.
"It's typically Canadian. It was nice, no pushover. Everybody went to bat for me and what could I ever say to thank them?"
He reportedly earned in the neighbourhood of $500,000 prior to this season and was looking for about a 15% raise.
"Everybody in the country loves hockey, I would suggest they love Hockey Night in Canada and they clearly love Ron MacLean," Lee said. "Our decision, and certainly the agreement we reached today, was based on meeting both of our needs."
MacLean and the CBC had a tentative deal agreed on last week but the contract was scuttled when, according to reports, executives at the network stuck their noses in. After that, the CBC announced on Monday that MacLean, who had been with the network for 17 years, was leaving.
That sparked a cross-country uproar and the CBC was inundated with thousands of e-mails and phone calls. The media, particularly in Toronto, had a field day and even Canada's top politicians jumped into the fray. Many of HNIC's key sponsors, including Labatt, also contacted the CBC to express their concern and disappointment, and, a couple of days after MacLean took a walk, it was learned that the two sides were negotiating once again. Dunlop Tires even offered Lee a free set of Dunlops if MacLean signed a contract, and MacLean would get a free set as a signing bonus.
Lee denied yesterday that sponsor pressure had anything to do with the resumption of contract talks.
"With me it's never about more money, more toys in life," MacLean said. "I'm not a money guy and that's what probably helped me walk away from the offer that was on the table. I went into this just trying to make a case for anybody that will ever sit in my chair. This is a unique property. This is a unique position and I feel very strongly about its worth.
"I don't hold any grudges, obviously. But you do stand up for yourself."
The agreement was greeted with relief from people at HNIC and within the hockey community.
"As my mother used to tell me, everything works out for the best," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, said. "I've always enjoyed my sessions with Ron. He and I go out of our way to be entertaining. Sometimes we go too far out of our way."