As far as Hockey Night in Canada goes, usually it’s Don Cherry you have to watch for in terms of saying things that are totally off the wall. On Wednesday night, that distinction belonged to HNIC host Ron MacLean. As MacLean welcomed viewers to CBC’s coverage of Capitals-Rangers Game 6, he began talking about the link between Washington and New York as both being attacked on September 11th. A long and bizarre soliloquy ensued comparing these hockey players to the police officers and firefighters that risked and lost their lives that day…
“It’s crazy to compare to what the emergency responders did during that time, but a spirit has to start somewhere and as you enjoy this series between the New York Rangers and the Washington Capitals, Game 6 coming up, 3-2 New York, you can’t help but be struck by the players and the way they’ve played these games. They are like police officers, they are like firefighters. You can’t fight fire with ego, Brad (Richards) knows that. The pain these men have faced, the price they keep on paying, the hearts they keep on lifting. It’s been through and through five games in…”
No. No. No. No. No! How many times do sports people have to needlessly compare athletes to those who actually risk their lives daily? Casually throwing words around like “heroic” to describe athletic competitons is hyperbole, but somewhat part of the culture of sports. Actually saying these athletes are like police officers and firefighters is completely over the top and invoking 9/11 imagery is way out of bounds. MacLean even says himself that it’s crazy to compare hockey players to 9/11 emergency responders… then goes and does precisely just that!! Hockey players are not like police officers. They are not like firefighters. And, in no way can you compare what they do in playing a game to what those men and women did on September 11th, 2001.
I’m sure MacLean didn’t intend for his analogy to go as far as it did, but hopefully it serves as a lesson to sportscasters everywhere to tone down the rhetoric and avoid this kind of statement in the future.