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What Could Replace 'Hockey Night in Canada?'
We asked CBC personalities what kind of show they would run on Saturday nights

All images courtesy of CBC

There was a conspicuous absence at the CBC Winter Preview on Tuesday: Hockey. It was strange to be getting psyched up for the most Canadian of Canadian television networks without the most Canadian show of all time, Hockey Night in Canada. CBC head Kirstine Stewart even started her address to the media and Canadian celebrities with an apology that there would be no hockey. The NHL lockout has forced the Ceeb to bench Canada’s most watched program with no timeline for return. A substitution is desperately needed.

So how can we get everyone in Canada watching CBC for three hours on Saturday nights? Saturday night’s alright for fighting, but is it also alright for a hunting competition travel show? Toronto Standard posed this hypothetical scenario to some CBC personalities:

Kirstine Stewart corners you in one of CBC’s ancient elevators and says, “Listen, we’ve got a big hole on Saturday night. We don’t know when hockey’s coming back and we need something big to keep the numbers up. We’ve talked it over and it’s you. It’s now ‘(insert CBC personality here) Night in Canada.’ We don’t care what it is, so long as it’s big and brings in viewers from all across the country. We’ll give you all the budget and resources you need, but you’re the star.” What’s the show?

After lots of polite humming and hawing and expressions of reverence for Ron, Don and the whole Hockey Night crew, I managed to pull these pitches out of some of Canada’s most recognizable broadcasters.

Jian Ghomeshi – Q

Having been on it this year, and getting a close up look at it, I really believe in the Quebec show Tout le Monde en Parle. That TV show in Quebec hits like 2 million people and the discussion, water cooler and otherwise, for the rest of the week is set by what happens Sunday night on Tout le Monde en Parle. We have no equivalent of that in English Canada . I think that would be an amazing kind of town hall/chat show on Saturday nights. This is where Canada gets together. Because in a strange way, outside of the game itself, that’s kind of what Hockey Night in Canada is. It becomes the discussion.

Having said that, we don’t really have a music show that is THE quintessential music show, a la Top of the Pops, like in the UK over the last four decades, and I think something like that, although not just related to pop music, that could be really fun.

It’s an amalgamation of Tout le Monde en Parle and Top of the Pops. And the house band is The Arkells, but each week somebody is sitting in with the Arkells. You’ve got Gord Downie sitting in with the Arkells, Feist with the Arkells, and sometimes the Arkells are doing their Mo-town stuff.

They’ll be your “The Roots.”

Right… But it’s not exclusively Canadian. We’re going to have, like Grizzly Bear, they’re my first non-canadian group because they have the album of the year.

That’s a good answer, I’m asking this question of everybody by the way. So it’s a competition now.

Ok. I got it. (laughs devilishly) It’s Bowie Night in Canada. And so all the things I just said apply. So different artists come on and everything, but everybody does a Bowie song.

So it’s themed.

Right, at least one of their performances has to be a Bowie song. It’s called Saturday Night Q or something, but really it’s known as Bowie Night in Canada. “This week on Bowie Night in Canada, what Bowie song is Drake going to do?” That’s actually a really good question, what Bowie song is Drake going to do?

Ricker Mercer – The Rick Mercer Report

I would thank (Stewart) very much, but I have a job that takes up all my time so I can’t even entertain the notion.

You can’t even entertain a hypothetical scenario?

I remember Michael Ignatieff got in trouble, or I made fun of him, the last time around in one of his first press conferences he said, “I don’t answer anticipatory hypotheticals.” I thought, ‘Oh yeah, you’re going to go far.’ So that would be an anticipatory hypothetical.

(much pleading and prodding)

I would play Canadian movies. I’d play the Grey Fox, I’d play The Rowdy Man, I’d play Porky’s. I’d play Great Canadian Movie Night.

Would you have any kind of discussion or guests, would you be unpacking these movies?

No idea… I have a show. And I’m lucky. Everyone in show business has the show they want to do versus the show they’re doing. I actually do the show I want to do. So I would have to tell them, look to George or Jian. In show business, if you own your own show, produce your own show, it’s your own show, it doesn’t get much better than that. Would I own the show that’s on Saturday night for three hours? I’ll have to take a pass.

Even if Stephen Harper, with his Majority government, was to legislate Rick Mercer at 7pm on Saturdays.

I don’t think that’s a hypothetical, that’s a hallucinogenic fantasy.

Calum De Hartog – Co-creator of the new CBC drama Cracked

Saturday night pick-up hockey.  Embrace it.

You could get the cops from your show playing.

Everybody. Actors, producers.

Who would you get to host it, Ron MacLean? Maybe he’d be a ref at centre ice.

Don Cherry could be one of the coaches. It’s a throw back. Embrace the hole in the schedule. We’ll all fill it, it’s a team effort.

George Stromboulopoulos – George Stromboulopoulos Tonight

First thing I would say is, if you want the country to watch, get Rick Mercer.

I asked him, he wouldn’t entertain the notion. So they go to Rick, he says no.

Then they go to Ron, then they go to Don, then they go to Peter, then they go to Jian.

I’m asking everybody

Well first of all, I would only consider it to be a team player. I don’t believe anything should be in that slot short of hockey. What I would do, is I would do a weekly celebration of Canada. So in that I would talk about awesome Canadians and interesting things and bizarre inventions and I would work in this sort of half Bill Nye the Science Guy versus half what we do right now (on George Stromboulopoulos Tonight) in this cool variety show. It’s the way people talk about the Grand ‘Ol Opry in country. I would do that, but it’s not just music. It’s performance, it’s storytelling, it would be like this large celebration of Canada every Saturday night. And I sure wouldn’t call it George Stromboulopoulos Night in Canada I would call it Canada Night in Canada. Every Saturday night, right here on CBC.

Kevin O’Leary and Jim Treliving – Dragon’s Den

Treliving: Well, the biggest thing is, Kevin can’t skate, so we’ve really got a problem. I’m a goaltender, that’s all I ever played, so we’ve got to get a whole bunch of players out in front of us. I would think, (O’Leary) being the General Manager of my new show that’s running a bunch of hockey stuff. Maybe instead of on skates, we can put him in running shoes or something like that. You know what would be a great thing, would be — you know the boards you use for skiing? Put wheels on that thing and everybody go out with a hockey stick. It would be a brand new thing, people would come from miles around, drink beer and do all those things.

You want to invent a new sport?

Treliving: I want a new sport

O’Leary: I could solve this hockey thing in 15 minutes. Here’s how this would work. While the players don’t want to play or they’re locked out or the owners have a problem with the economics, we’d have a new league. This league is called The Cash Flows. Everybody gets on the ice with a stick, alright? If you score you get $50,000. An assist you get $25,000. If you lose the game that gets cut in half, if you win that gets doubled. Everything works.

So people have a direct cash incentive.

O’Leary: It’s all about cash. And believe me, you’re going to see some fantastic hockey. People are going to go see that, those are gladiators on ice, they won’t want to see the old Leafs. Who wants to watch that when you can watch The Cash Flows.

Treliving: And they won’t cost as much money, because they don’t have any goal scoring on that team.

Gerry Dee – Mr. D

We could think of a lot of fictitious ideas, but no. There are so many great Hockey Night in Canada people that certainly could do something on a Saturday night. I mean we’ve got Don Cherry and Ron MacLean who are, much much bigger than Gerry Dee. I just hope hockey comes back. And we don’t ever have to worry about those fictitious ideas.

You’re a big sports guy. Maybe with all these hockey players out of work you could get some of them to appear on Mr. D. Who’s the funniest hockey player you know?

There are a lot who are very funny. I’d like to get (Steve) Stamkos involved, because I’ve known him for a few years, and PK Subban. I mean they’re personable guys. There are some kids I know in the minors that would be hilarious. If you’re looking at star power, you’re not going wrong with Stamkos or Crosby

Crosby doesn’t strike me as the comedian type though.

No, he would be very reserved. I’ve met him, he’s a really nice kid and classy. Most hockey players are like that. They chirp each other in the dressing room and all that, they have a good sense of humour. We had Mike Cammalleri on season one, he was great. It’d be a long list if I wanted to get someone on and we may try to do that.

Well maybe that’s what we could do on Saturday nights. Saturday Night Live with hockey players?

There you go.

Christine Tizzard – New host of Best Recipes Ever

They’re not going to ask me to play hockey are they? I think it’s because I’m such a big fan of Anthony Bourdain, let’s do like a crazy travel food show.

Would you go across Canada?

Well I would like to go everywhere, but across Canada. I was actually thinking, I don’t know maybe they’re already doing it on the Food Network, you know everyone loves that Diners, Drive-ins and Dives

That’s with Guy Fieri?

Yeah. Or, I’ve always wanted to get my hunting license so why not send me out doing like a crazy hunting show, but with a chick doing it. Has that been done before?

Well, not on CBC.

I would be learning to hunt from the real professional hunters, like going and visiting the seal hunt. Actually, I don’t know if that would be a good idea.

Other people have suggested pick up hockey or a big musical spectacular…

Well my husband is a musician (Ian Thonley of Big Wreck), maybe we could do Big Wreck on the road.

So it’s a tour, you’re going across the country playing shows. So you see that, but then also, in the morning you have to go hunt your breakfast.

Why don’t we get two bands to form hockey teams.

So now it’s a big travelling road show.

We need tour buses

Competing tour buses, each one filled with musicians and hockey players and hunters?

I don’t know.

Every morning you stop somewhere and you’re in the wilderness somewhere in Canada, and you’re hunting for your breakfast, and you need that energy so you can play hockey and at the end of the night you play a big concert.

That’s way out there, though, I don’t think that’s going to fly.

I think everyone in Canada would watch this. Some people have said you need hockey on Saturday night, others have suggested big music and culture shows, but I think we’ve been missing the hunting part.

You need the hunting part.


Michael Kolberg is The Sprawl Editor at Toronto Standard. Follow him on Twitter for jokes @mikeykolberg

For more, follow us on Twitter at @torontostandard and subscribe to our Newsletter.

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