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But don’t expect George Stroumboulopoulos, the first-time host of The NHL Awards on the NBC Sports Network and on CBC in Canada, to be fazed by all the Hollywood and NHL royalty gathered in the Encore Theater on the heels of the Los Angeles Kings winning the Stanley Cup championship trophy.
Hosting the NHL Awards is a mere tryout for Stroumboulopoulos.
The new face of Canadian hockey will really need to nail it in the fall when he starts hosting exclusive coverage of the NHL in Canada, via a $4.9 billion, 12-year deal between the NHL and Canadian broadcaster Rogers Media.
“For a lot of people who are watching, certainly in Canada, who don’t know I used to be a sports reporter, this is a way to see me connected to the game,” Stroumboulopoulos said of his NHL Awards gig.
The veteran Canadian radio and TV host interviewed NHL players as a young reporter working at a sports radio station.
“For me, it’s kind of the same old. This feels natural to what I should be doing,” he insisted.
But as much as Stroumboulopoulos downplays expectations, he knows he’s heading into the center of Canadian TV’s sporting universe where fans embrace the game with religious zeal.
The U.S. may have local pro football and baseball teams to worship.
“In Canada, we have one thing, hockey, and it’s not regional. You go to an urban center, it’s as wild as if you go to the prairies or up north. We are a mono-culture in terms of sport,” Stroumboulopoulos said.
So with hosting the NHL Awards next week, as with Rogers Media’s blanket coverage of the pro league from next season, it will be about connecting fans to the stars.
“As much as it’s a gig, I love the idea of being there to celebrate the players and their relationship with the fans,” Stroumboulopoulos said.
That means becoming a traffic officer, even if it will seem like Rodeo Drive with all the presenters and performers lined up for the NHL Awards.
“Any good award show host tells a couple jokes, tells people what’s happening, warms up the evening a little, and then gets on with the business at hand, which is celebrating the game,” Stroumboulopoulos added.
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