Tara Slone’s eclectic resume and unique perspective have made her one of the most recognizable faces in the Canadian entertainment industry. The host of Breakfast Television Calgary, and the new co-host (with Ron MacLean) of Hometown Hockey, Tara speaks about her intriguing career path which saw her transition from rock star to broadcaster, and she is right at home bringing star power to your stage, as a host of conference events, gala evenings, and more. The Calgary Herald caught up with Tara to talk about her new gig, working with Ron, and being a life-long Habs fan:
Tara Slone has no problem declaring her hockey allegiance.
The host of Citytv Calgary’s Breakfast Television was “the girl in high school who had a Montreal Canadiens winter coat.”
“You’re a product of what you grew up with,” says Slone, in an interview earlier this week. “My dad is from Montreal and I grew up watching Hockey Night in Canada with him. In fact, during Habs games was the only time as a teenager where I was allowed to swear, openly. During hockey games, if something happened, that was only time I could say the F-word.”
Granted, cursing will not likely come into play when Slone starts a new job Sunday working with broadcasting icon Ron MacLean on Hometown Hockey, which will air half an hour before game time from a different town or city each week. But it certainly shows she has a long history of fandom for our nation’s favourite sport.
Hometown Hockey starts this Sunday prior to the Leafs and Rangers game on Citytv, which is the new television home of Hockey Night in Canada with host George Stroumboulopoulos. Slone, MacLean and hockey Olympian Jennifer Botterill will be in London, Ont. to help launch the series. Slone will not be leaving Breakfast Television here in Calgary, which she joined in 2010. She and Botterill will split their Hometown Hockey duties over the next six months across Canada. Slone took some time to chat with the Herald about her new job.
Q: Tell me about Hometown Hockey.
A: We will be helping Ron out, co-hosting and in the crowd and trying to follow the stories of these incredible towns that are hotbeds of hockey. It’s a travelling festival, really. There are a whole bunch of interactive features and big screens and local music and alumni who will also be rolling into town. The festival component happens on a Saturday and Sunday during the day. The broadcast component goes half an hour before game time on Sunday nights. Now there’s a nationally televised Sunday night game. There’s a half-hour live show from London, or wherever the show is going to be, hosted by Ron and peppered throughout the show we will be checking back into the studio, which is George Stroumboulopoulos. There has been a features team travelling across the country for the last number of months, just following incredible stories. For instance, London’s big stories are Eric Lindros, that’s where he got his start as a little kid. Nazem Kadri, his story is that his grandfather emigrated from Lebanon with seven children and wanted the best for his children and his grandchildren and how much it means for Nazem to be playing in the NHL and how much it meant to him to be drafted in the first place. There will be lots of young hockey players around. Whatever we find throughout the weekend. We’ll be doing school visits every Friday, going to a junior game, hanging out with alum. A lot can happen over the course over a weekend that could make it into the show.
Q: Have you already been doing work with Ron MacLean to prepare? What has that been like?
A: Ron and I started talking about this a number of months ago when I was thrown into the mix and the powers-that-be wanted Ron to meet me just to make sure I would be a good fit for the project. I am incredibly inspired by him. I really think, on top of being one of the top broadcasters in the country, there really isn’t anybody who loves the stories behind the game more than he does. Nobody has stored more information and stories than he has. I was really flattered that he thought I would be a good fit for the show.
Q: It sounds like you will be very busy, particularly if you are still going to be doing Breakfast Television here in Calgary.
A: (laughs) It’s not every weekend, but a lot of weekends. It’s going to be a bit of a balancing act. My family is very supportive and my husband is a saint and we’ll see how it goes with my five-year-old. There are going to be challenges and sacrifices. I will be on BT a little bit less. They are making sure I take my weekends even if they are not on weekends.
Q: Obviously, there’s been a lot of chatter about hockey moving from CBC to Rogers. What would you say to hockey fans who may be concerned?
A: I think the viewer is going to have the best experience possible. I certainly couldn’t speak to the licensing and how this all went down. Obviously those of us who work at Rogers are really excited about this. But as a hockey viewer, there are going to be more games broadcast than ever before. For those of us who work at City this is great news, we get hockey on our station. It’s a coup. The people running the show have assembled, top to bottom, the best minds in hockey in the country if not the world. There are a lot of people who have migrated from CBC and TSN. I think we’re all in really good hands. Scott Moore and Gord Cutler and the people who are on the top love this game and have always loved this game.
Q: A Globe and Mail article on the weekend suggested that Ron MacLean, who hosted Hockey Night in Canada from 1987 to 2014, is being “kicked further aside” and “exiled” to Sunday nights. But, as you said, the new job seems to play to at least one of his strengths, which is storytelling …
A: I’ve heard him talk about Hometown Hockey and seen how excited he is. The politics of the whole thing is not something I feel comfortable getting into. I think George is a great choice and I think Rogers needed to put their stamp on it and understand why changes were made. But this is Ron’s bag, man. If you ever sit down and have a conversation with him, he’s an encyclopedia. That’s the kind of stuff he talks about. It’s all stories. He’s a great storyteller. I think it’s going to be great.