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Hockey Icon Don Cherry Reupps With CBC

Bombastic Canadian hockey pundit renews contract through 2011-2012.

TORONTO -- Hockey Night in Canada's bombastic co-host Don “Grapes” Cherry will remain on the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. payroll for another year.

Renewing Cherry’s contract through the 2011-2012 National Hockey League season gives the CBC some runway to renew its overall Canadian NHL TV rights package during negotiations in fall 2012. Cherry reupping comes amid panic at CBC that it required the politically incorrect hockey pundit if it hopes to fend off rival CTV to regain the rights to Hockey Night in Canada, which first started airing on the public broadcaster in 1952.

Cherry’s first-intermission show on Hockey Night in Canada, Coach’s Corner, is the highest-rated seven minutes on Canadian TV. But resigning Cherry comes with negatives for the CBC. For starters, the politically-incorrect hockey pundit polarizes his TV audience.

The former Boston Bruins coach has politicized the CBC's flagship hockey telecast by featuring long tributes to fallen Canadian troops in Afghanistan and endorsing right wing political candidates. The hockey pundit is also ageing.

At 77 years-old, Cherry could retire before the 2013 contract extension talks, taking his cult audience with him. But CBC executives were putting the best spin on Cherry’s resigning on the weekend. “We’re delighted to announce that the venerable hockey icon Don Cherry has signed on for another season and will continue to provide hockey’s liveliest and sometimes provocative commentary,” Kirstine Stewart, executive vice president of CBC English Services, said.

Terms of Cherry’s new contract with the CBC were not disclosed.