Don Cherry, who this year turns 86 years old today, is an icon of hockey. He appeared on Hockey Night in Canada since 1982. He may be one of the most well-known men in the country.
But his broadcasting career with Hockey Night in Canada came to a sudden end last year, when he was fired for making anti-immigrant remarks he made on air.
Cherry has long courted controversy, making statements that were racist, sexist, or sometimes simply old-fashioned, bombastic and insensitive.
He coached the Boston Bruins from 1974 to 1979, but he is best known as a commentator on “Coach’s Corner” — a commentary segment airing live during the first intermission of hockey games.
The former coach always had a lot to say about about how players were playing, and would give advice to the young players watching the games about how they could do better. Don was a guy that was always passionate about the game and what he said and because of this he ran into some problems.
During what would become his final broadcast on the 9th of November, discussing the upcoming Remembrance Day, Cherry praised the soldiers that fought for our country and complained that, according to his observations in his hometown, immigrants were not wearing the traditional Remembrance Day poppy pins.
““You people that come here…” Cherry said, “you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey, at least you can pay a couple bucks for a poppy or something like that… These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada, these guys paid the biggest price.”
The comments set off a firestorm of criticism.
In the past the CBC has threatened to fire Cherry a number of times due to controversial things he has said. But he apologized for his actions. This time he did not apologize.
Two days after the comments, on Remembrance Day, Sportsnet announced that Don Cherry was stepping down.
When Don first got the Coach’s corner gig, his fans and others were so happy because they said he would be a great fit for Hockey Night in Canada. Don was great at his job but not only was he great at his job he did good things outside of his job.
He would donate to cancer patients to help the family get over the hard times with their kids. He would also go to the hospitals and give kids stuffed animals and signed pictures of him with a little quote to get better soon. Don loved spending time with the kids and making their day and adding some happiness into their lives, trying to make the hard times good times. Don also had a lot of respect for people who had passed away. He would have a moment of silence and put up a picture of them and remember the person. Don always tried to give back to the community.
But his commentary often veered into political criticism and xenophobia, and perpetuated harmful attitudes about being “tough” which affected some who survived abuse from their coaches. His comments affected so many people in so many different ways.
Don Cherry was a compelling character on TV. His outlandish suits and colorful language made him a great entertainer, and he got lots of love from his fans. But he just was too passionate and perhaps wasn’t completely aware of what he was saying, or how it would be interpreted.
He will be missed by his fans, and yet firing him was the right thing to do.
(Image Credit:Charles LeBlanc)