Cherry Firing

Don Cherry’s tenure on Hockey Night in Canada has come to an end after comments that he made during his Coach’s Corner segment this past Saturday.

“You people… you come here, whatever it is; you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey, at least you can pay a couple of bucks for a poppy or something like that. These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada, these guys paid the biggest price.”

Our veterans absolutely deserve the upmost respect and our sincerest gratitude for their sacrifices that allow us to live the lives that we live. There is no arguing that.

Cherry claims that if he could do it again, he would use the word “everybody” instead of what he said. The underlying message that wasn’t conveyed properly was that everyone should buy a poppy to honour our veterans. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with THAT message.

However, that is not what Cherry said.

The statement as it was worded was clearly aimed at people that have immigrated to Canada and that do not wear poppies. There was a level of anger and frustration in Cherry’s words. It came across as predatory. I can totally understand why people were offended by Cherry’s comments. They were the wrong words on the wrong platform.

This has been a polarizing issue over the last few days. People either agree with Cherry and think his firing was undeserved, or think that his comments were offside and inappropriate and that he does not deserve to be on the air anymore. Personally, I see merit in both sides of the argument.

I have never been a fan of Don Cherry. I haven’t watched Coach’s Corner in years! I have literally been changing the channel during the first intermission on Saturday nights because I couldn’t stand listening to Cherry talk. One of my biggest reasons for this is because of the quantity of air time that he devoted to things outside of hockey. I’m trying to watch a hockey game. Coach’s Corner was always intended to be a segment dedicated to hockey analysis. I don’t want to hear about anything else but hockey in that time slot.

I would have had no issue what so ever with a brief acknowledgement of Remembrance Day and the sacrifices that our veterans have made and continue to make. The problem for me came when the rant came. I don’t care about what side of the argument you’re on, HNIC is not the platform for political banter.

This isn’t Cherry’s first rodeo when it comes to controversial comments. CTV News’ Solarina Ho recently wrote a piece outlining his many controversial comments; I will defer to her work for a summary of his comments over the years. I don’t even want to discuss them further because I have long felt that Cherry needed to be off of the air for entirely different reasons.

The thing that drove me the most nuts about watching Cherry when I was a kid was that he would always interrupt Ron MacLean. He treated MacLean like a piece of garbage on the air! I found him to be rude and obnoxiously loud as a kid. That didn’t really change as I got older. It made the segment painful to watch.

Cherry was always about the fighting and the dirty work in hockey. I’ve always enjoyed the skill involved in hockey. I like to see pretty goals and nice passes and slick dangles. I’ve been happy to see the enforcer role be slowly phased out of the game. He and I were never going to see eye to eye on that. Cherry coached the Bruins in the 1970’s, and his opinions on hockey never really advanced past that decade. That annoyed the hell out of me.

He hated it when a player showed any sort of emotion other than anger. He criticized Ovechkin for his goal celebrations. He wanted players to act like they’ve been there before. In other words, he wanted them to act like robots.

I’ll say two things to that. First, it takes a lot to score a goal in the NHL. If I was a player, I would take a celebration against as a compliment because he is celebrating how hard it was to score against me. I am FAR from an elite athlete, but I do play recreational sports. I get mad when I get beat because I expect myself to make plays. Be mad that you got beat, not mad that the other guy is celebrating his success. Secondly, the NHL is a form of entertainment. Celebrations make the game more exciting, and they make the players more marketable. Why the hell would anyone be telling the players to not do that?? I don’t get that.

He also called the Hurricanes “a bunch of jerks” last season because of their Storm Surge celebrations after home wins. Look at how much positive attention the Hurricanes and the NHL received because their players showed some personality and did something fun and different to interact with their fans. The celebrations were never done maliciously. The other team was never on the ice to watch the celebrations. It was just positive and fun. Cherry had to shit all over it because heaven forbid players have fun. The fact that the Hurricanes embraced the “Jerks” label was fantastic!

The game has long suffered from a lack of bright personalities because showing emotion other than anger has long been frowned upon. Cherry was a major proponent of that ideology.

The most intelligent thing that Cherry ever said on the show is that the addition of hard elbow pads and helmets were increasing the number of injuries to players because the protection allowed them to take bigger runs at each other. The protective equipment allowed players to treat each other with less respect on the ice. They could hit each other harder as a result of the added equipment, and that resulted in more injuries. I will give him credit for that.

Aside from that, his hockey content was basically telling kids to keep their sticks on the ice and to keep their sticks out of shooting lanes as defenders. He would cherry pick (pun intended) highlights of goals going in off of a defender’s stick, and he would blame the defenceman for it. He would totally ignore the 95% of other times that the puck would be deflected out of play when a defender gets his stick in the shooting lane! I found that laughable every time he would say that, and he would say it often.

Coach’s Corner was always meant to be a show dedicated to hockey analysis. Over the years, Cherry drove the focus away from that and focused far too much on grassroots hockey and politics. Cherry is an 85-year old man with very traditional views. As long as he was allowed to air his political views during his segment, he was going to get himself into trouble at some point. As it turns out, he got himself into trouble on multiple occasions.

This time, Sportsnet finally decided to do something about it.

Cherry was quoted in the Toronto Sun as saying that “to keep my job, I cannot be turned into a tamed robot… I would’ve liked to continue doing Coach’s Corner. The problem is that if I have to watch everything I say, it isn’t Coach’s Corner.”

That quote suggests that there was a way that Cherry could’ve kept his job. The fact that Sportsnet’s statement regarding Cherry’s departure said that he stepped down after discussions with Sportsnet is also a strong hint that he could’ve kept his job if he had handled this differently. If he had shown remorse or apologized, we might not be having the conversation that we’re having about Cherry being fired today. He was disappointed with MacLean’s apology, and he showed no desire to apologize. The idea that he would’ve had to watch what he was going to say moving forward to keep his job suggests that there was an option for him to keep his job if he would’ve been willing to play along with Sportsnet, but he wasn’t willing to do that.

Cherry’s larger than life personality and bold, traditional opinions were never a fit for a lasting marriage in today’s era of political correctness. If it wasn’t this particular incident that represented the end of the line for Cherry, then it would’ve been something else down the road.

The reality is that Cherry’s archaic opinions on hockey have been heard repeatedly over the years, and they don’t resonate with the majority of today’s viewers. The game has changed drastically during his broadcasting career, and he failed to adapt. His analysis was stale and entirely not insightful. The fact that he consistently failed to even come CLOSE to pronouncing players’ names correctly was unprofessional as a broadcaster. He did that for as long as I can remember, and it seemingly got worse as time went on. All of those are reasons that he should’ve been off of the air a long time ago.

The fact that he has made multiple controversial comments about politics on his hockey show over the years is just further evidence that he shouldn’t be on the air during HNIC anymore. He’s entitled to his opinions, but they don’t need to be shared during the hockey game. Once again, I don’t care about what side of the current argument that you are on; the rant should have never been allowed to take place on a hockey broadcast. Sportsnet and CBC allowed Cherry the free reign to do that for too long.

Cherry will be remembered as one of the more iconic figures in hockey broadcasting history. His loud jackets and bold personality were undeniably entertaining, and his controversial comments certainly elicited discussion. Despite that, I for one am certainly looking forward to a new era without Coach’s Corner on Hockey Night in Canada.

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