If Glenn Healy wants to escape the public scrutiny that has followed him around for the better part of the past 15 years as a broadcaster, he might want to avoid getting involved in politics. But surprisingly, that’s one of the career paths Healy is contemplating after being let go as the between-the-benches analyst for Hockey Night in Canada.
If Healy thought there were haters, and there were, when he was a broadcaster, that will pale in comparison if he does decide to dip his toe into the political waters. “There has been interest in the past in getting into the political side of things,” Healy told thn.com early Monday night. “When (former Canadian finance minister) Jim Flaherty was alive, I was approached about being an MP on a couple of occasions. The next chapter will come. I’m only, what, seven hours into this.”
This is Healy’s dismissal from HNIC, part of a purge that included host George Stroumboulopoulos and six other on-air personalities as well as a number of behind-the-scenes workers. It’s a far cry from the environment that existed two years ago, when Rogers Communications paid $5.2 billion for Canadian hockey rights away from CBC and TSN. A transaction that was so filled with optimism and change has been a disaster almost since Day 1, with Rogers sustaining losses in part because of the poor performance of Canadian teams. And the product has had its share of critics, many of whom were not shy taking to social media to express their displeasure.
“I know that when Craig (color analyst Simpson) and Jim (play-by-play man Hughson) and I would do games together, we pretty much every game left feeling pretty good about the broadcast and the team,” Healy said. “And a lot of it has to do with the people who work in those trucks. They’re 50-goal scorers. Unbelievable at what they do. They don’t get enough credit.”
The firings did not go over well with those who kept their jobs at HNIC. Healy and P.J. Stock, in particular, came as a shock. And with Damien Cox moving full-time to radio, that’s three strongly opinionated personalities that have been let go. It’s almost as though HNIC is saying that if your name isn’t Don Cherry, you can’t have an opinion.
“You know what this is?” said one industry insider. “This is leadership by Twitter. This is why executives shouldn’t be on Twitter.”
Healy was bought out of his contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2001 and went directly into broadcasting and has been at it ever since, save for a couple of years with the NHL Players’ Association. He was one of the pioneers of the between-the-benches broadcasting, something that has become a staple in broadcasts today. His spot there will likely be filled by Simpson as HNIC goes to a two-man crew.
It was not a terribly smooth transition. Healy remembers the first game he ever did with legendary broadcaster Don Whitman calling the play. The Edmonton Oilers were retiring Jari Kurri’s number before the game and Healy remembers prattling on about something until Whitman told him to put on his headset because nobody could hear what he was saying. “After the first whistle, all the lines come up (on the screen) and it’s off within four seconds,” Healy said. “And I say, ‘If you think that was a waste of time, stay tuned for the next whistle because we’re going to waste more of your time and put up the other team’s lines that you can’t read.’ That was the first thing out of my mouth at Hockey Night.”
It was that level of candor and honesty that marked Healy’s tenure as a broadcaster. There were legions of critics, but Healy was honest in his commentary. And despite what those critics think, it was coming from a place of experience. He eschewed analytics, probably to his detriment, and had an old-school philosophy, which wasn’t always a bad thing considering how Rogers and HNIC tried, and failed, to connect with a younger, hipper audience.
Healy said he never allowed the criticism to bother him. And, in reality, it comes with the territory. “It tells me they’re listening,” Healy said. “How many times have you turned on a TV and said, ‘What am I watching? I’m not even paying attention to it.’ I never tweeter and was never on Twitter, so for me it was white noise. I can tell you I never, ever, had anyone ever say anything negative to me, on the street, in a restaurant, anywhere. Not one.”
It turns out Healy has three years left on his deal, all of which will be paid in full. The move still will save Rogers money because it is moved out of the hockey budget into another budget and there are tax advantages to buying out employees. Healy doesn’t know what is coming next, but he has time to be picky.
“I’m a pretty lucky guy,” Healy said. “There’s no pity party here. It’s just your livelihood, it’s not your life.”