“Hometown Hockey” broadcasters Ron MacLean and Tara Slone are headed for Surrey on Dec. 9 and 10.

Singer/broadcaster Slone set to ‘dig in’ for Surrey stories at weekly hockey festival

Ron MacLean’s ‘other co-host’ flies in for televised Hometown Hockey event Dec. 9-10

SURREY — Some people might remember Tara Slone as the voice of the alt-pop band Joydrop, or even as a contestant on the “Rock Star: INXS” reality-TV show in 2005. These days, however, she’s the face of Rogers Hometown Hockey broadcasts with Ron MacLean.

“Yes, I’m Ron’s other co-host,” quipped Slone, in reference to Don Cherry, the Hockey Night in Canada legend.

Slone will be in Surrey for a Hometown Hockey roadshow on the weekend of Dec. 9 and 10, at Surrey City Hall Plaza (13450 104th Ave.). Every weekend, the two-day event showcases a different Canadian city as part of an NHL game broadcast on Sportsnet.

“We’re part festival and part broadcast, and on Sunday nights the two come together,” Slone explained.

“There’s a whole crew that just stays on the road, a whole convoy of semi-trucks, and we take up a rather large footprint, with a giant stage and interactive activities, a ball hockey rink that kids are really drawn to, and a mobile studio. So all that happens on Saturday and Sunday, and everything is free and hockey-themed, and it’s a lot of fun for families.”

• READ MORE: Kirk McLean, Dave Babych in Surrey for Rogers Hometown Hockey stop, from Nov. 23.

For hockey fans, the game that Sunday (Dec. 10) will feature a must-watch clash between Connor McDavid’s Edmonton Oilers and Auston Matthews’ Toronto Maple Leafs.

Whatever city is on her itinerary, the Toronto-based Slone flies in Friday and departs Monday.

“My Saturdays are spent onsite doing broadcast elements and on-stage presentations, but really getting my feet on the ground in the community, hearing stories, doing puck-drops, etcetera,” Slone elaborated. “And on the Sunday I always host a hot-stove discussion with our alumni, and then the broadcast happens and we do all the pre- and post-game, and intermissions in the mobile truck.”

In Surrey, the festival runs from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday, and Sunday from noon to the end of the viewing party.

Edmonton Oilers’ forward Jujhar Khaira, who grew up in Surrey, will be featured, and San Jose Sharks’ defenseman Brenden Dillon will talk about Surrey and his connection to the HEROS program, which helps at-risk youth by connecting them with mentors through the game of hockey.

Special guests will include Cloverdale-area hockey player Owen Hopkins, Rick Hansen and the Hockey Night in Canada Punjabi broadcast team (“I’m going to try Bollywood dancing with those guys,” Slone revealed).

• READ MORE ABOUT OWEN HOPKINS: Young Surrey hockey player hits ice again after incredible recovery from cancer, from Sept. 12.

As a singer, Slone made some noise at the turn of the millennium with Joydrop, which reunited this year and has performed a few shows, including a recent one opening for 54-40 at Toronto’s long-established Horseshoe Tavern.

“The four us hadn’t played publicly in about 15 years, and it’s such an old story for a band – our record company went under, we lost our record deal and things just kind of fell apart,” Slone explained. “We just went our separate ways. When I moved back to Toronto – I was in Calgary for five years doing Breakfast Television – we really missed it, and missed each other. So we’re just doing some one-offs. It’s just fun, you know. It’s a whole different vibe doing it just for fun as opposed to trying to get a song on the radio.”

During her original Joydrop days, Slone would often guest on Michael Landsberg’s TSN show, “Off the Record,” and worked her way into acting and broadcasting.

She’s been with Hometown Hockey since the start.

“In the beginning, my role was a bit different than it is now,” she said. “Nobody really knew what this show was going to be, other than being Ron’s show, so at the start I was more in a reporting role, in the crowd and doing interviews, and then after Year 1, I think they thought Ron and I had good chemistry and they wanted somebody as a fulltime counterpart to him. So that’s when I moved back to Toronto and took it on fulltime.”

She never played hockey, but the sport is definitely in her blood.

”I grew up watching the game with my dad, who was a rabid Habs fan and, like many others, it was a Saturday night ritual watching Hockey Night in Canada,” Slone recalled. “I always loved the game, the culture, the excitement. I had a Montreal Canadians winter coat in high school, so you can imagine that’s not something a lot of people had – well, not a lot of girls anyways.”

(STORY CONTINUES BELOW VIDEO)

When the Now-Leader talked to Slone on the phone, she was about to depart for Winnipeg, host of the Hometown Hockey broadcast on Dec. 3.

“For me, I dig in and learn more about the community we’ll be in during the week-of, to keep from being totally overwhelmed,” Slone said with a laugh.

”I feel really lucky to have people share their passion for the game, and with this sport, with fans, it’s not always positive interaction, of course, but for us it’s always positive – there’s just a real generosity we experience, and kindness,” she added.

“The stories we tell are pretty universal, and their appeal goes beyond the game. But it’s definitely been eye-opening to see how galvanizing the sport can be at every level, not just (professionally). Our old barns across the country, those are our meeting places, where we watch our kids grow up and it’s where we congregate. It’s a beautiful thing.”

At Hometown Hockey events across Canada, the Scotiabank Community Locker Room is described as “a family-friendly space to engage hockey fans, celebrate the game, and interact with NHL Alumni.”

Dodge sponsors the hockey-themed Stow ’n Go Challenge and a chance to win a 2018 Chrysler Pacifica and $5,000 for a local minor hockey association. All contest entrants will receive a Dodge Hometown Hockey retro toque.

Dr. Oetker provides fans with free pizza, and OK Tire has a new on-site activation featuring “a pit-crew-like experience where fans have the opportunity to test their tire changing skills on a replica Zamboni.”

Playmobil Canada sponsors a Kids Zone where fans “have the chance to face-off against friends and family with the PLAYMOBIL NHL Arena and its lineup of NHL figures.”

Also, fans can take photos with virtual images of NHL players and have the photo emailed directly to their device.

This year, Tim Hortons got involved with a hockey rink that features pick-up games for the community, including local Timbits Hockey players. Bauer provides street hockey equipment for the games.



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

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