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When you consider that Dave Hodge got terminated by Hockey Night In Canada for throwing a pencil, how was Don Cherry allowed to go on so long spewing various forms of racist and divisive remarks?
How many times over the course of his career did Donald S. Cherry “cross the line?”
It started, of course, with the perception that players from certain countries lacked the same sort of courage or character as Canadians.
But with Grapes there was no line.
It was like he believed his popularity seemed to depend on occasionally uttering something as outrageous as one of his suits to create reaction and remind everybody that he was bigger than the game, with his seven minutes after the first period on the telecast of a Saturday night hockey game.
It was like he seemed to need the “spike” from one of his comments to illustrate that he was bigger than the institution it had been before Hockey Night In Canada producer Ralph Mellanby added his segment to the show.
The people who populated the press box, many of them, took frequent swings at Cherry and his comments here and there over the years. And yet, every Saturday night when Coach’s Corner came on one of the monitors in the press box, those same media members would crowd around it to see what he was going to say this week. All of Canada did.
And many of us, myself included, would occasionally call Cherry for comment on this story or that.
He was always great copy.
I go back to covering Stanley Cup finals when he coached the Boston Bruins against the Montreal Canadiens.
He was a quote machine.
Most of us, most of the time, loved Don Cherry.
There were times, of course, where we cringed at something he said and wondered if this time it would be the one that did him in and probably thought it ought to be. But it never was.
Some of us spent a few evenings in his company in a bar now and then on the road. A lot of those nights in the Oilers’ run to five Stanley Cups, that bar was Sherlock’s on Rice Howard Way, a short stumble from the Westin.
Once Cherry, who is a big Admiral Nelson fan, went on a holiday to London with hockey writer Al Strachan and put together a list of 300-year-old pubs they visited where famous people from way back when were said to have had a beer or two.
On a trip to Munich to cover the World Figure Skating Championships, columnist Cam Cole and myself accepted the challenge of going two-and-out at each of the pubs on his list and succeeded. I believe we toasted Don Cherry at one of them.
I genuinely liked Don Cherry and appreciated the many things he did for charity and for various people. And I most certainly was not alone.
So commenting on the biggest news of this hockey season today, the firing of Don Cherry, isn’t easy for some of us.
Absolutely I always believed, however, that there was something terribly twisted in the idea that Cherry represented Canadians and maybe even saw himself as the ultimate Canadian.
I wasn’t alone in the belief that, sooner or later, it was going to happen. But who would have expected for it to happen on Remembrance Day and for comments he made about what segments of the population weren’t wearing poppies.
Maybe if he hadn’t led with the words “you people” or allowed himself to use his hockey platform to suggest that Canada’s immigrants don’t properly honour our fallen soldiers, this would never have happened.
A Rogers Sportnet TV sports executive finally decided it was time for Don Cherry’s time on Hockey Night In Canada to come to an end on Nov. 11, 2019.
And it really is the biggest hockey story of the year.
If so many TV sports executives before him allowed Cherry to get so far over the line with so many of his views that don’t represent Canadians, maybe Cherry wouldn’t have come to this end.
But sooner or later it really did have to happen. And the real crime here was, considering some of the other comments he was allowed to make on hockey broadcasts over the years that it was so much later.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019