16 December 2010

An Open Letter to the CBC

Dear CBC,
During the first period of the Montreal Canadiens/Boston Bruins game tonight, Canadiens defenceman PK Subban delivered a clean and crushing body check to Bruins forward Brad Marchand. The hit, as noted above, was perfectly clean - after the play concluded several Bruins players wanted to fight Subban, who was not interested and skated away. He made a hockey play, and that should have been the end of it.

However, the CBC commentators during the intermission decided that the play was deserving of considerable discussion targeting Subban and essentially calling him a coward for not fighting. Not surprisingly, Mike Milbury and PJ Stock were most vociferous in their condemnation of not only Subban, but of another Canadiens player, Max Lapierre, an agitator whose role is to get under the skin of his opponents. These are two men that have often railed against what they call the "pansification" of hockey, yet when a player makes a big hockey play, they condemn him for not doing something illegal that is penalized by a major penalty. They thus picked up on the long-running theme of another CBC commentator, Don Cherry, in proclaiming that Subban does not have any respect for his fellow players, and needs to earn the respect of not only his opponents but his own teammates. They didn't proclaim, as Cherry has, that somebody is "going to get him" but they continued the ongoing theme targeting Subban.

What do all three of PJ Stock, Mike Milbury, and Don Cherry have in common? They are all former members of the Boston Bruins. To have these people commenting on anything to do with the Montreal Canadiens lacks credibility because their bias is heavily pronounced and hardly concealed. The CBC prides itself on journalistic integrity and fairness; these men do not have any semblance of fairness when it comes to discussing the Montreal Canadiens.

As a Canadiens fan, I have for years had to endure listening to Cherry slagging my favourite team without a balancing voice. Canadiens games are, on those occasions that they are shown on Hockey Night in Canada, often called by Bob Cole - Canada's most famous Toronto Maple Leafs fan. I am just old enough to remember a time that the legendary Dick Irvin Jr. was on the broadcast team during HNIC to call Canadiens games. One could tell that he actually liked the team, unlike many of his colleagues that are products of other organizations that have been the Canadiens' rivals over the course of many decades. However, he was moved off the broadcast team, and ever since there has been a noticeable imbalance in broadcasting whenever the Canadiens have been featured on CBC.

I'm a reasonable person. I don't think it's necessary that the CBC should hire a pro-Canadiens cheerleader to add pro-Canadiens comments to the Hockey Night in Canada broadcasts. However, what was once mildly amusing has become incredibly irritating; while Cherry is and remains a caricature, his calls for somebody to "get" Subban has sparked a dangerous trend that has been picked up by his colleagues on the program. Subban is a young and exciting player that is respected by his teammates and loved by many Canadiens fans. To hear somebody calling for him to be injured is despicable. I am beyond frustrated listening to Coach's Corner and the other intermission panels. Indeed, even though I am almost entirely unilingual and speak only a small amount of French, I often turn to the French channel RDS and leave it there not only during the game but also the intermissions. I would rather practice my diminished second language skills than listen to anti-Canadiens propaganda spoken in my first language. I think that many of my fellow Canadiens fans would agree with my sentiment that something must be done to restore a degree of balance to the HNIC broadcasts.

Richard McAdam