The CBC is skating away from Don Cherry's rant about fighting in hockey that has generated widespread criticism toward the outspoken commentator.

The CBC issued a statement Saturday saying it does not agree with the views Cherry expressed on a Hockey Night in Canada broadcast Thursday.

Cherry called three former NHL tough guys "pukes" for speaking out against fighting in the sport. Those ex-players were Stu Grimson, Chris Nilan, and Jim Thomson.

In his popular "Coach's Corner" segment, he also lashed out at anti-fighting advocates in general.

He said they used the summer deaths of three former NHL enforcers as a soapbox for their arguments against fighting. Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien and Wade Belak died within a matter of weeks this summer.

Kirstine Stewart, the CBC's executive vice-president of English services, says Cherry's comments reflect his own personal opinion.

"While we support his right to voice that opinion, we do not share his position," Stewart said in the statement.

"Player safety is a top priority for CBC, and we support the initiatives of the NHL and others in keeping players safe on and off the ice."

Stewart says she spoke Friday with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and delivered a similar message.

Cherry called Grimson, Nilan and Thomson "turncoats" and "hypocrites," accusing them of not wanting players to make the same living they did.

He also accused those who want to end violence in the sport of taking advantage of the three deaths to make points on fighting.

With files from