When people think of influential names in hockey, many people come to mind. Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr, Gordie Howe, Scotty Bowman, and Harry Sinden are all probably thought of before anyone else in the hockey world. But to many people, especially those in Canada, one of the biggest influential names in hockey is that of Don Cherry.
Don Cherry has been associated with hockey for as long as most people can remember. Cherry played a mere one game in the National Hockey League for the Boston Bruins in the 1954-55 season, and after a few more years in the minor leagues, Cherry decided to take on a more executive role within the sport. He later became the head coach of the Bruins for five years from 1974-79, recording a successful 231-105-64 record over 400 games. Cherry is perhaps best known for his work after coaching, when he became a broadcaster and co-hosted “Coach’s Corner” during the first intermission on Hockey Night in Canada alongside Ron McLean. Cherry and McLean continued to host Coach’s Corner for 33 years, from 1986 to 2019.
This tenure came to a screeching halt on Monday, as Sportsnet and Hockey Night in Canada announced Cherry will be relieved from his duties immediately, after comments he made on Coach’s Corner a few days prior were deemed “offensive and inappropriate”.
Cherry, also known throughout the hockey world by his nickname “Grapes”, expressed his frustration during the November 9 broadcast of Coach’s Corner at immigrants and young people in the country who did not respect the wearing of the poppy leading up to Remembrance Day, a Canadian federal holiday dedicated to the soldiers and war veterans that fought for their country many years ago. Cherry ranted about how he rarely saw anyone wearing the poppy, particularly young people and immigrants, by saying “you people that come here, you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey, at least you could pay a couple of bucks for a poppy. These guys paid for your way of life that you love in Canada, these guys paid the biggest price. It’s just disgusting if you ask me.”
Cherry’s comments resulted in tons of social media backlash and scrutiny, with many people calling for him to be fired. The Twitter hashtag #FireDonCherry briefly became a trending hashtag in Canada.
Bart Yabsley, president of Sportsnet, released the following statement on Monday:
“Sports bring people together – it unites us, not divides us. 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.
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.”
Cherry, 85, stood by his comments and did not offer a public apology. Ron McLean and Sportsnet both expressed remorse.
Featured photo courtesy of Tom Szczerbowski / The Canadian Press
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