Everyone is talking about the fact that Don Cherry got fired.
Okay, well, everyone in Canada is talking about it. Hockey Night in Canada has been a staple in the nation’s households for more than 85 years. And Coach’s Corner with Don Cherry has been a staple in our staple for almost 40 years.
We freaking love hockey. We eat, sleep, and breathe hockey. We will stay up all hours of the night watching hockey. We will spend many, many weekends in freezing cold ice rinks watching our kids learn to play hockey. We will build skating rinks in our backyards so we – er, our kids – can play hockey whenever we – er, they – want to. We will argue to the death that it’s not a coincidence that The Great One (Wayne) and The Next Great One (Sidney) are both from Canada. We are very opinionated about hockey.
Know what we’re not particularly opinionated about? Pretty much anything else.
Don Cherry, on the other hand, is one opinionated… guy. And hockey lovers across the nation have been listening to him opine for a very long time. What’s he opinionated about, you ask? Everything from politics, to reporting tactics, to climate change. See this CBC article for more details on his opinionated rants.
Finally, FINALLY, he’s been called on it. Cherry made some insensitive remarks about immigrants during last weekend’s broadcast of Hockey Night in Canada and was subsequently fired. The whole country is in shock, wondering if hockey in this country will ever be the same.
Yes, Don Cherry is that famous, that important, that pivotal a presence.
Looking at this simply as an observer, Sportsnet was obviously in a really tough spot and it must have been difficult for them to make the decision they did to let Cherry go. They have faced some serious backlash over firing the face of Hockey Night in Canada. If they had decided to keep Don on the air, they would have had to arrange some kind of an apology and/or introduce some guidelines for what is and isn’t okay to discuss on camera.
A (partially) scripted Hockey Night in Canada? No thanks. Nobody wants that, least of all Don Cherry himself. So really, did they have any other choice but to let him go?
Joe Warmington wrote this opinion piece for the Toronto Sun and claims that “the idea that Don was being discriminatory is just wrong. And at 85 years old and after 38 years on the air, you would think that there would be the benefit of the doubt and a second chance.”
The thing is, Cherry has been in hot water for insensitive and offensive comments many times before (as seen in the CBC article linked above). I have no doubt that the marketing department at Sportsnet is/was getting pretty tired of putting out Don’s little fires. There’s only so many times that you can let a person of his fame get away with saying controversial things just because he’s old and famous. And given that Canada recently re-elected a Prime Minister whose party is pro-immigration, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that the majority of Canadians would be upset about Don Cherry’s comments and would make a stink about it. I can understand why Sportsnet would prefer to not wade through that stink.
The bottom line is that Don Cherry is gone. He said some hurtful things, refused to apologize, and he suffered the consequences. While he may have been the face of Hockey Night in Canada, he is not the voice. Or the conscience. Or the heart.
Hockey Night in Canada will go on. Hockey has not been ruined! Canadians – all of us, from all walks of life – will remain alarmingly obsessed with this beautiful game for centuries to come.
For more thoughts and opinions from Melanie, click here.