Don Cherry Stands By Comments After Being Fired From Sportsnet
Don Cherry yesterday said he "could still be on" Sportsnet as part of its "HNIC" broadcasts, but he "refused to apologize" for what many called a xenophobic rant he made during Saturday's broadcast, according to a front-page piece by Kevin McGran of the TORONTO STAR. Cherry was fired earlier in the day yesterday, and Cherry said, "I could have stayed if I had wiped the floor with myself, and returned as a tamed person. I don't feel that the people who watch 'Coach's Corner' deserve something like that. I would rather go out on my shield. I guess I am going out on my shield." He added, "I don't regret a thing. I said what I said, I meant what I said" (TORONTO STAR, 11/12). Cherry added, "I could have stayed on if I wanted to and knuckled under and turned into a simp, but that's not my style." Cherry: "The people that are against me took it the way they wanted to take it, and that's who they listened to." He noted he has made appearances for sick children and "nothing was ever said about that." Cherry: "You make one little comment like 'you people' and you know how it picks up. But that's the way it is. Hey, listen, I'm not whining or anything." More Cherry: "Somebody asked me, 'Am I going to be replaced?' I said, 'I'll never be replaced'" ("The Night Side," CFRB-AM, 11/11).
ISSUE WITH SPORTSNET'S STATEMENT: In Toronto, Joe Warmington reports Cherry did not care for "some of the words used" by Sportsnet President Bart Yabsley in his statement on Cherry's firing. Yabsley in the statement noted Cherry made "divisive remarks that do not represent our values" but added, "Don is synonymous with hockey and has played an integral role in growing the game over the past 40 years." Cherry: "I don't think those comments should be in there. If I was integral to hockey then why are they firing me?" Cherry said that he has "'no problem' with leaving" his "Coach's Corner" role, though he added that his dismissal "came on the wrong day." Cherry: "On Remembrance Day, of all days" (TORONTO SUN, 11/12).
DIVISIVE, BUT BELOVED: In Boston, Joe Haggerty wrote Cherry "found his niche" on "HNIC" as an "influential, old school combination of Archie Bunker and former NHL head coach while entertaining millions in Canada during national hockey broadcasts." Cherry "spoke directly to hockey fans and had the puck pulpit like nobody else has in the history of the sport" (NBCSPORTSBOSTON.com, 11/11). ESPN.com's Greg Wyshynski wrote Cherry's "loud suits and louder takes made him the most famous member of the Canadian hockey media for decades, as 'Coach's Corner' became appointment viewing on Saturday nights." His appeal even "spilled over" to the U.S., where he "appeared on everything from national hockey coverage to beer commercials" (ESPN.com, 11/11). In DC, Bonesteel, Strauss & Bieler write Cherry was "known to favor English-speaking, Canadian-born players over those from Europe or Quebec, whom he considers soft" (WASHINGTON POST, 11/12). USA TODAY's Kevin Allen writes it "wasn't a mystery why Cherry kept his job in the face of much controversy" over the years. The CBC in '04 "held a vote to determine the greatest Canadian ever and Cherry finished seventh," three spots ahead of Wayne Gretzky. Allen: "It seemed like Cherry was bulletproof until Monday" (USA TODAY, 11/12). TSN's Bob McKenzie: "However polarizing he may be, I don't know that there's been a more legendary, iconic Canadian broadcaster -- certainly that covers hockey -- than Don Cherry" ("SportsCentre," TSN, 11/11).
TOUGH ACT TO FOLLOW: The GLOBE & MAIL's Marty Klinkenberg notes Sportsnet "has not said if Cherry will be replaced or if its long-standing format will remain unchanged on Saturday nights" (GLOBE & MAIL, 11/12). The STAR's McGran notes there is "no word yet" on what "HNIC" will do in the "first intermission to replace Cherry." Brian Burke, who has worked in the front office for several teams and "can be just as outspoken" as Cherry, currently is part of the show's crew and "could be in for a bigger role" (TORONTO STAR, 11/12). THE ATHLETIC's Sean McIndoe wrote Burke "seems like a natural choice" to replace Cherry, as he would be the "closest candidate to what Cherry was, the brash hockey lifer with strong feelings about the right way to play the game." Sportsnet also "could go in the other direction, and fill the airtime with a new voice and a fresh perspective." Perhaps a "woman and/or a person of color, maybe someone younger instead of yet another scowling white male" (THEATHLETIC.com, 11/11). In Toronto, Lance Hornby writes Cherry's firing and the "end of a theatrical hockey era was a shocker." Speculation on replacements will be "rampant in coming weeks, but if Sportsnet stays with a similar format, Cherry is one tough act to follow" (TORONTO SUN, 11/12).
COULD GO IN A NEW DIRECTION: THE HOCKEY NEWS' Jared Clinton wrote the "right way to tackle the question of Cherry's successor isn't by asking who, but rather what, will fill the airtime." One of the "best segments ... in all of hockey broadcasting" the last few years has been "Headlines" on "HNIC," which features MacLean and reporters Elliotte Friedman and Chris Johnston. The second-intermission segment offers "insight into the pressing topics" and delivers "updates on the NHL's major stories." There also exists an opportunity for "more storytelling" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 11/11).