With his weekly TV platform gone, Don Cherry entered the podcast world on Tuesday, saying Sportsnet executives “made it impossible” for him to clarify the remarks that got him fired.
The former Coach’s Corner co-host was dismissed after 38 years for “offensive and discriminatory” comments made during the Nov. 9 segment on Hockey Night in Canada.
“Evidently I said something that upset Sportsnet and they canned me,” Cherry said during Tuesday’s 30-minute launch of the Don Cherry Grapevine podcast with his son, Tim. “I offered to explain [what I meant by my words] … not an apology but I was going to smooth it over. And they made conditions that made it impossible to do it. I just couldn’t do it …”
On that broadcast, Cherry criticized people who don’t wear Remembrance Day poppies using words many believed were aimed at Canadian immigrants.
“You people … 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,” Cherry said alongside co-host Ron MacLean. “These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada, these guys paid the biggest price.”
‘I lived in a vicious world’ for 38 years
Cherry said he talked about many other subjects during the final Coach’s Corner.
“Nothing was mentioned about that. Nothing. Just two little words seemed to set everybody off,” Cherry said. “But, hey, that’s the way life is. I lived in a vicious world and I lasted 38 years. Happy to be there for 38 years. If I gotta go, I’m glad I’m going out on my shield.”
Cherry noted he has received support from many people, including truck drivers who have given him the thumbs-up and fire-fighters beeping their horns to show their support.
Sportsnet president Bart Yabsley issued a statement condemning Cherry’s remarks on Nov. 10, and during an NHL broadcast that night MacLean issued a brief apology. On Saturday’s show, MacLean delivered a five-minute monologue explaining why he chose to continue doing Hockey Night in Canada despite Cherry’s dismissal.
WATCH | Ron MacLean’s emotional monologue on the end of ‘Coach’s Corner:’
Ron MacLean spoke during the 1st intermission of the Leafs/ Penguins game to address the Don Cherry situation and what he called the “end of an era.” 4:44
Cherry, 85, said on the podcast he was disappointed in MacLean but said he is “still a friend.”
Tim Cherry told the Toronto Sun on Monday the plan for the podcast, is to tape and post it each Monday during the hockey season. Much of Tuesday’s podcast focused on Cherry’s memories of his coaching career and Maurice (Rocket) Richard.
Tim Cherry was also critical of Sportsnet.
“It’s a different world out there with the cancel culture,” he said. “They had their eyes set on you [Don], they had their guns set on you I think this year for sure. I think there was a lot of fake outrage.”
Cherry, a native of Kingston, Ont., joined Hockey Night in Canada in 1980 as a playoff analyst and was so popular that he was kept on as a colour commentator. CBC later created Coach’s Corner as a vehicle to showcase Cherry, with MacLean eventually replacing Dave Hodge as Cherry’s sidekick.
Known for his outlandish suits and thumbs-up gesture, Cherry occasionally weighed in on off-ice topics during his popular first-intermission program, and sometimes those views landed him in hot water.
Hockey Night and its games moved to Sportsnet when Rogers landed a lucrative 12-year broadcast rights deal with the NHL that began in 2014. Hockey Night in Canada is still broadcast on CBC in a sub-licencing deal with Rogers Media, which owns Sportsnet.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman opted not to weigh in on the Cherry developments during a keynote interview appearances at the Primetime sports management conference in Toronto on Monday but offered a few words afterwards to reporters.
“I believe the CBC has had a number of statements, we’ve had a number of statements, Don has spoken and I’m not going to start another news cycle,” Bettman said.
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