The face of Hometown Hockey is excited to return to his hockey roots this weekend.
Former Hockey Night in Canada mainstay Ron MacLean leads the Rogers tour into Whitehorse, where he spent four formative years of his life in the ’60s.
“It’s extraordinarily special,” MacLean said of his homecoming this morning.
Now 55, MacLean fondly remembers his years in the Hillcrest community, where he first donned skates on his neighbour’s backyard rink.
“I was smitten immediately,” he said of Canada’s national game. “I became a Leafs fan, I think solely because my mom was a Montreal supporter and I needed someone to bet with.”
MacLean was four years old when his dad was stationed in Whitehorse with the Royal Canadian Air Force.
“Those were such formative years,” he said of his time in Yukon, which included two years at Christ the King Elementary School.
Whitehorse is where the young MacLean first strapped on his skates with the help of his neighbour, Dwight Riendeau, who knocked on his friend’s door and invited him over to the Clement family rink down the street.
He proudly recalls showing his late father, Ron Sr., his brand-new wrist shot, wiring a puck over the boards and into the wilderness.
MacLean arrives here tomorrow night, and will be joined in the Yukon capital by former Toronto Maple Leafs sparkplug Darcy Tucker and Hartford Whalers sniper Geoff Sanderson – a native of the Northwest Territories.
This weekend’s festival marks Hometown Hockey’s debut North of 60 and will culminate with a live National Hockey League broadcast from Whitehorse of a game featuring the Calgary Flames and Carolina Hurricanes.
Chase Blodgett’s story will anchor the broadcast, MacLean said. Blodgett made national headlines last year when the local women’s association drafted a board policy allowing transgendered players to play in the league.
But the fun gets underway already today at Shipyards Park, where fans can join mascot Hometown Hank and Whitehorse Huskies players for a slide and skate from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.
More events will be taking place at the Canada Games Centre.
Saturday’s festivities will run from noon to 6 p.m. on the banks of the Yukon River, between Wood and Main Streets.
Saturday’s Coach’s Corner segment will feature MacLean in Whitehorse.
MacLean and company will then host an outdoor viewing party on-site Sunday beginning at 11 a.m., with the live broadcast on Sportsnet getting underway at 2:30 PST.
MacLean said the best opportunity for autographs and handshakes will occur during the broadcast.
The free hockey-themed weekend will feature a variety of activities and live local entertainment. For a full schedule of events, visit www.hometownhockey.com.
Several hockey-related acts will occur alongside the festival, including a banner-raising ceremony honouring the territory’s recent standout squads prior to Friday night’s Huskies game at Takhini Arena.
Scotiabank, a festival sponsor, is also slated to donate $15,000 to Whitehorse minor hockey.