By Jeff Labine
The Chronicle-Journal

The dream to play in the NHL is alive and well among Canadians.

That’s according to Ron MacLean.

The Canadian sportscaster was in Thunder Bay on Sunday as part of Rogers Hometown Hockey. He described hockey as a beautiful sport that requires a skilled player to use their feet, hands, imagination and vision.

“It’s a wonderful game that happens to take part in that crazy lull in our year – winter – so it is a good pass time,” he said. “Granted children have many technologies and ways to cope with winter. But the game, just because it’s magic. It’s a very special sport. The feeling you get on skates, the feeling of cold air in your lungs without being cold – those are hard to describe but once you’ve experienced it it’s easy to get that bug. Like anything in life, once you get a little bit successful, your pride and performance carries you to the next level. You just need that breakthrough early in your career and your childhood then you are on your way.”

He said that no matter where a hockey players plays – whether it be in the Maritimes or the prairies – seeing them on television doing what everyone else is doing creates that sense of belonging.

“I cannot believe the story of the junior team in the Superior International Hockey in Ear Falls,” MacLean said. “I don’t know what the story is on how they are doing it but they are bringing in kids from all over the country to play in that little out-of-the-way near-Red Lake league. I love that. Ultimately, it comes down to television. You see yourself being connected on that television.”

MacLean explained the main draw for him to host Hometown Hockey has been hearing the various stories. He mentioned he got to spend some time with Thunder Bay’s own multi gold medal winner Katie Weatherston.

“I just hear stories and I really appreciate that,” he said. “Probably the best story I’ve had in a decade has nothing to do with hockey. A gentleman named John Wood in the 1976 (Summer) Olympics. He saw his opponent at the start of the race struggling to get oil off his hand. It’s very common in paddling in canoeing and kayaking. The camera boats put oil in the water. He saw a Russian who was struggling. He gave him a little towel he had under his bench, which has sandpaper sown into it. The Russian he gave that to ultimately beat him for the gold medal. I love that story because of the sportsmanship. I just so happened to run into that story.”