Ron MacLean talks Maple Leafs, Flames, ‘underpaid’ McDavid

Watch as Hockey Night in Canada host Ron MacLean throws out the first pitch.

TORONTO — You can’t blame Ron MacLean for steering clear of Airport Road this summer.

After a wild and relentless work year that began with his daily coverage of the Summer Games, which bled into the World Cup of Hockey, which slipped right into his Hockey Night in Canada hosting return, which was interrupted every Saturday night with a domestic flight for the Hometown Hockey tour, MacLean enjoyed about as much still time as my boy’s fidget spinner.

“I was so frazzled form the Rio Olympics and the World Cup, I just didn’t want to see an airport,” says MacLean when we catch up with him at Smashfest.

Now finally ready to travel again — MacLean is taking off this weekend to catch a Tom Petty concert — the 57-year-old broadcasting icon was happy to chat hockey with us for roughly the length of a “Coach’s Corner” instalment.

Here is MacLean’s take on a handful of the NHL’s off-season stories.

On the Calgary Flames‘ aggression in the marketplace: “ I think Calgary has made really strong moves to bolster their situation. I just played ping-pong with Sam Bennett and Matt Tkachuk. They’re going to be a great match for the Oilers based on what Brad Treliving did. I’m a big Travis Hamonic fan. He’s a special person, a great character. I love the way he honours his family, how he puts names under his blade tape. Calgary’s probably done the best so far.”

On the young Maple Leafs getting older, wiser: “I like Dominic Moore and Patrick Marleau coming to Toronto. San Jose was ready for a change. They’re going to have to figure a way for Logan Couture and few other guys to be the guys. I was surprised, but I know it’s a great pickup for Toronto—to get a guy like Patty who can play with the speed of the game. It’s hard to bring in a veteran nowadays. If you can’t skate, you can’t play in this NHL. Three years is the price you pay for a guy who still has wheels at 36.”

On the three-peat chances for the Penguins, who lost a chunk of their depth to free agency: “I would never bet against Crosby, and I’m really impressed with Matt Murray’s goaltending. With Kris Letang coming back—that’s something they didn’t even have—I think there’s a very, very good chance. That team’s strong enough to do it again.”

On what to expect from the Golden Knights’ maiden voyage: “Vegas is going to be a rambunctious, hard-to-play, entertaining-for-the-fans team. The league is so tight, the only outlier is: Will there be distractions? Will the enemy be diminished coming into Vegas? I can’t imagine it—they’re all pros—but it’s there for the pondering. If a team is sitting in Vegas, they may not be their best. I love what they did to make the product. It’ll be a punishing rink to play in, but I’m certainly not banking on them making the playoffs.”

On Connor McDavid‘s $100 million payday: “You know me. I’m old school. I still think he’s underpaid. A lot of people will look at me and say, ‘Are you out of your mind? He’s making $100 million!’ He’ll get by on that. He’s content with that, as Gretzky before him was. Wayne wanted to give the money to help build a better team. McDavid got what was coming to him, and he’s obviously worth the price of admission. If the markets were closer to fair, he could get more, but so be it.”