Don Cherry, "HNIC" Among Topics Discussed During NHL's BOG Meeting At All-Star Game
The Maple Leafs were "only one of several Canadian franchises to criticize the overall performance" of the CBC's "Hockey Night In Canada" -- including co-hosts Don Cherry and Ron MacLean -- during an NHL BOG meeting in Ottawa at the All-Star Game, according to reports cited by Bruce Dowbiggin of the GLOBE & MAIL. Following the CBC's annual presentation to the NHL board in Ottawa, Maple Leafs President & GM Brian Burke "delivered a blistering critique of the program's treatment of him and then-coach Ron Wilson." Other Canadian teams, including the Canucks and Senators, "blasted the network for the Toronto-centric nature of the program and complained about deteriorating journalistic standards." However, participants of the meeting reported that "no one asked for Cherry to be fired, and that Cherry is only one bone of contention with CBC." Senators Owner Eugene Melnyk said, "I didn't comment at all on MacLean or Cherry. My issue dealt with the number of games shown on 'HNIC' that are not Sens games and my concern about how skewed they are to another team that you can easily deduce. ... I wasn't given any concrete response." Oilers President & CEO Patrick LaForge said of the meeting, “It got a little warm in there. If NHL realignment was a 3 on the Richter emotional scale, this was a 5. Having said that, it's not abnormal for our meetings to get that way. I just didn't think it was the right format for that discussion." Sources said that CBC Exec VP/English Services Kirstine Stewart and Exec Dir of Sports Properties Jeffrey Orridge were "blindsided by the vitriol they encountered after making a pitch to keep the public broadcaster as the NHL's partner in Canada." CBC execs "pledged to get back to the clubs on the substance of the issues raised at the meeting." LaForge said the teams want a "higher level of partnership" with the CBC (GLOBE & MAIL, 3/10). In Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont wrote, "Whatever personal beef Cherry has with Burke about job security, here's an idea: take it up with the CBC human resources department, not a viewing audience that by now should be gaining a clearer picture that it's time for crazy ol' uncle Don to move permanently to the La-Z-Boy side of the whole TV experience" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/11).
TALKING HOCKEY: The GLOBE & MAIL's Dowbiggin today writes there was "peace in the valley" on "Coach's Corner" this week, as Cherry and MacLean "largely stuck to hockey, and the civil war with Toronto GM Brian Burke was shelved for this week at least." Ratings from earlier this season showed a drop in "HNIC" of 500,000-1 million viewers "on some nights Coach's Corner comes on after the first period." The CBC noted 2.217 million viewers saw the March 3 "Coach's Corner" when Cherry went after Burke; the high for the season was 2.51 million viewers (GLOBE & MAIL, 3/12).