Is it Time for Don Cherry to Go?
by Andrew Kulyk & Peter Farrell
CBC commentator sets off firestorm with fighting comments
While many of us here in Sabre Nation were focused on the Europe trip and all the pageantry of opening night at First Niagara Center, a mess of epic proportions was brewing just to the north of us, as famed broadcast analyst and former NHL coach Don Cherry ignited a controversy on his very first segment of “Coach’s Corner” on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada.
Cherry has been a long-time staple of the popular Saturday night broadcast, which is widely viewed here in Western New York. He is well regarded as one of hockey’s foremost celebrities throughout Canada, and things up there come to a literal stop on Saturday nights at 8:40pm or so, as viewers tune in to the first intermission to hear what Cherry has to say.
Most of the time, folks aren’t disappointed, as Cherry makes no apologies to opine about issues in the game which are near and dear to him. Curiously, while he has steadfastly complained that the NHL needs to adopt a no-touch icing rule to protect players from crashing into the boards in a race for the puck, he does a complete 180 on player safety when it comes to the issue of player fights.
This past summer, hockey lost three of its players, all pugilists, as players Derek Boogard, Wade Belak, and Rick Rypien died, under different sets of circumstances. Their untimely deaths had many questioning the continued need for “enforcers” and calling once again for the end of fighting as part of the culture of the game.
Cherry wasted no time with this issue, opening his first segment on his show with a tirade against those who want to put the brakes on fights. “You people that are against fighting, you should be ashamed of yourselves,” said Cherry. “You took advantage of [the deaths] to make your point on fighting. You should be ashamed of yourself for doing something like that.”
Then Cherry ramped up his diatribe yet another notch, specifically criticizing former NHLers Jim Thomson, Chris Nilan, and Stu Grimson for suggesting that players who fight might have substance abuse issues.
“The ones that I am really disgusted with…are the bunch of pukes that fought before: Stu Grimson, Chris Nilan, and Jim Thomson. ‘Oh, the reason that they’re drinking, [taking] drugs and alcoholics is because they’re fighting.’ You turncoats. You hypocrites,” Cherry shouted.
“If there’s one thing I’m not it’s a hypocrite. You guys were fighters, and now you don’t want guys to make the same living you did.”
All three players vehemently denied any suggestion that they said that fighters in the league are drinkers and substance abusers. And across Canada, media and fans lit up with the controversy, many criticizing Cherry for going way too far, while others suggested that this was yet another vain attempt by CBC to garner attention and ramp up ratings for its broadcasts, which have been losing market share and relevance over the past decade.
Grimson inititally responded with this remark: “He’s edging ever closer to the line…and I think there will come a point when he steps over that line and CBC decides it’s time to shut the senile old uncle down.”
A week later, Cherry issued an on-air apology. Grimson then released a lengthy statement, in essence accepting the apology, which included this caveat to CBC. “My point is this. You cannot stand on the highest mountaintop in the country, Hockey Night in Canada, and point your finger at these men and shout down to the nation that you believe they’re ‘pukes, turncoats, and hypocrites’ simply because they have a different point of view than you. You cannot use that platform to target anyone in that way, and especially not men with that kind of fury and expect not to answer for it. I believe this is why the response to Mr. Cherry’s comments has been as strong as it has.”
One thing is for sure: “Coach’s Corner” continues to garner attention on Saturday nights, and no matter how old or how senile Cherry is getting, as long as he is still on the air, we can’t help but tune in and watch.
• How about Nathan Gerbe getting his due on last week’s episode of Law and Order SVU, NBC’s popular crime show. Part of the story was set in Buffalo, and a missing baby in the script was named “Nathan,” ostensibly named after Gerbe, leading the Buffalo Sabres in penalty minutes. Gerbe got a kick out of the whole thing, telling reporters on the recent road trip that he was laughing about it. The entire cameo blew up on Twitter and Sabres message boards. So Taro did some investigating and found out that a script writer with Buffalo connections added this to the plot, and when this recently aired story was being written in the spring, the Sabres and Flyers were going at it in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Yes, at that time Gerbe was leading the team in penalty minutes for that series. If you have a better explanation, Taro would like to know.blog comments powered by Disqus
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