Don Cherry deserved better

My Nikkel's Worth column

You either love Don Cherry, or you hate him — there was no middle ground with him.

This is as it should be, because that’s how he was, uncompromising in his comments and views, usually on hockey topics, but sometimes on issues of interest to his viewers.

article continues below

For generations of hockey fans who grew up watching him on Coach’s Corner, along with the puns of Ron McLean, he was an iconic commentator who could dissect hockey plays, or call out players (or commend them) for their actions on or off the ice.

One thing he was always clear about is that he always said what he thinks, and rarely if ever held back.

This did land him in hot water on more than one occasion, like his derisive comments about Russian or European hockey players who were usually not as aggressive or hard-nosed as Canadian players were.

If you were a hockey fan, you knew this about him and took things with a grain of salt, but he was always entertaining as he bantered with McLean about their given topic.

As many people are aware by now, Cherry was fired by Sportsnet, on Remembrance Day of all days, because he made comments about poppies, saying that in his opinion there are a lot of people who don’t wear them, especially in big urban centres like Toronto, and he particularly urged immigrants to show their gratitude to Canada by wearing a poppy.

The reaction was huge, as the agency that takes complaints from viewers about things they see on TV was so overloaded that they posted a notice they would no longer take complaints about Cherry’s rant.

Cherry hasn’t apologized, but then that’s Don, that’s not what he does, while McLean did apologize for not jumping in and controlling the conversation a little better.

Cherry did make a comment to a Toronto reporter, and it’s clear that what he was centring on was encouraging people to wear poppies. He wasn’t centring his remarks on offending immigrants, but it was taken that way, and Rogers Sportsnet reacted in the most inappropriate way imaginable, firing him on Remembrance Day.

Most telling was his comment that to keep his job, he would be “turned into a tame robot”, and that’s not how Coach’s Corner works.

The day should have been all about our veterans and remembering their sacrifices for us, and supporting those who continue to serve and protect us at home and abroad.

If this was the time for him to step down, Cherry deserved to go out in a way that honoured his many years of promoting the game of hockey, instead the lame one-sentence “we thank Don …” statement that Sportsnet issued.