Although he’s never set foot in Prince Albert before, Ron MacLean has strong ties to the local hockey community.
The former host of Hockey Night in Canada will be in town Saturday and Sunday for the Rogers Hometown Hockey tour.
MacLean is old friends with the big man from P.A., former NHL’er and current Raiders associate coach Dave Manson.
In his blog, MacLean talks about the time he accompanied Manson on a week-long golf trip in the U.K. 15 years ago. He recalled rifling a golf ball at Manson’s head, hitting him in the ear.
“I was terrified. But he had a big grin, like instantly — a big grin and laughing,” MacLean said. “Of course, I buggered up the shot. He knew I was trying to lay over, on top of it. I was struggling at that point with my hands, because with the tour, we were out every night to who knows what hour. So I was lucky to get the club on the ground, let alone through the ball.”
“He thought it was funny, because he knew I was paying the price for sweaty palms. As I say, guilty feet have got no rhythm, and neither do guilty hands.”
When the Raiders retired Dave Manson’s No. 4 jersey on Feb. 12, the club hosted “The Roast of Dave Manson” the following day. Via video, MacLean and the wacky suit wearing Don Cherry filmed a special Manson-themed episode of Coach’s Corner.
“We were thrilled to do it, just think the world of the guy,” MacLean said. “As you read in the blog, everything about him smacks of leadership but in such a humble way. He conquered the biggest stage there is, but he kept it Saskatchewan through and through.”
Living in Alberta as a youth, MacLean saw the Raiders play his Red Deer Rustlers in Junior A action. He knew of Johnny Bower’s legacy in the NHL and got to know Dave Manson on professional and personal levels later in his career.
But what really sold MacLean on Prince Albert’s hockey prowess was an encounter he had with the local Midget AAA clubs.
“I remember meeting the Beardy’s Blackhawks and Mintos at the Mac’s Major Midget Hockey Tournament in Calgary. I was filled with admiration. I already knew P.A. was a rival of the Red Deer Rustlers on the Junior A level,” MacLean said. “(Former Raiders coach) Terry Simpson used to bring in that juggernaut in the 70s and 80s so I respected the city. It was a mythical city to me. Of course, I saw them conquer the major junior circuit with the 1985 Memorial Cup.”
“But when I found out that the midget programs were as great as they were, I realized it’s really hockey country. That’s what you are in Prince Albert, and it’s going to be an honour to shine a light on that.”
On Twitter: @jeff_dandrea
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