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Don Cherry, the feisty former minor-league hockey player and former Boston Bruins coach known for hollering and high collars as the co-host of the “Coach’s Corner” segment on Hockey Night in Canada, was fired Monday by Canadian sports channel Sportsnet.
As Canada’s top TV hockey pundit for nearly four decades, Cherry is known on both sides of the border for his outrageously flashy suits, loud ties and starched tone-on-tone white shirt. But his bombastic TV style, which helped bring hockey to the forefront of TV sports, cost him his job after he took direct aim at Canadian newcomers during a Saturday segment timed for Remembrance Day.
Cherry’s sudden departure follows the NHL and Sportsnet on Sunday condemning as “offensive” the comments he made Saturday. “You people love — they come here, whatever it is — you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey. The least you could pay is a couple of bucks for a poppy or something like that. These guys pay for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada. These guys pay the biggest price,” Cherry, 85, said during his first-intermission show, which is the highest-rated seven minutes on Canadian TV.
“Following further discussions with Don Cherry after Saturday night’s broadcast, it has been decided it is the right time for him to immediately step down. During the broadcast, he made divisive remarks that do not represent our values or what we stand for,” Sportsnet president Bart Yabsley said Monday in a statement. “Don is synonymous with hockey and has played an integral role in growing the game over the past 40 years. We would like to thank Don for his contributions to hockey and sports broadcasting in Canada.”
The “Coach’s Corner” first-intermission forum during the Hockey Night in Canada telecasts on Saturday night traditionally explained hockey and its culture of violence to Canadians otherwise known as among the most polite and passive people anywhere. But Cherry’s most outrageous pronouncements included urging female reporters to stay out of male dressing rooms, accusing former NHL enforcers of being “pukes” and “hypocrites” for urging an end to fisticuffs and calling Quebecers “whiners.”
In November 2016, Cherry on Twitter told “the left wing kook entertainers and the left wing weirdos in the media in the U.S.” to stay home, rather than emigrate to Canada as some threatened should Donald Trump win the U.S. presidential election. “Please, we have enough of these types here now,” he added.
Cherry more recently has increasingly mixed commentary on hockey strategy with tributes to Canadian soldiers, especially when they were killed in Afghanistan, and his comments Saturday night appear to have been a bridge too far for Sportsnet executives.
It’s understood the decision to show Cherry the door followed his refusal to back down and follow longtime “Coach’s Corner” co-host Ron MacLean in issuing an apology. MacLean, who had come under fire on social media for sitting silently by on camera while Cherry delivered his tirade against Canadian newcomers, on Sunday night took to Twitter to apologize for not calling out his colleague on air.
“I want to sincerely apologize to our viewers and Canadians. During last night’s broadcast, Don made comments that were hurtful and prejudiced and I wish I had handled myself differently. It was a divisive moment and I am truly upset with myself for allowing it,” said MacLean, who has worked with Cherry for 30 years.
The NHL, which is midway through a 12-year deal that gives Sportsnet parent Rogers Media the exclusive rights to air pro hockey games in Canada, on Sunday also criticized Cherry for his remarks: “Hockey is at its best when it brings people together. The comments made last night were offensive and contrary to the values we believe in.”
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