British Columbia

Vancouver Canucks captain says 'no place' in hockey for Don Cherry's comments

The Vancouver hockey community had mixed reactions to the dismissal of Don Cherry. The Canucks criticized his comments about immigrants, but others feel his punishment was too harsh.

'Hockey’s supposed to bring people together,' Bo Horvat said

Canucks captain Bo Horvat says Sportsnet made the right decision to dismiss Don Cherry after he criticized immigrants. (Enzo Zanatta / CBC)

The Vancouver Canucks say there's no place in hockey for discriminating against minorities, no matter how iconic Don Cherry is in Canada.

Sportsnet cut ties with the controversial broadcaster after Cherry's comments targeting immigrants for not wearing poppies were widely criticized.

Canucks captain Bo Horvat said Cherry's comments targeting immigrants were wrong.

"He's been in the game for a long time and he's been around, but at the same time hockey's supposed to bring people together and there's no place for stuff like that," said Canucks captain Bo Horvat after a Monday morning practice.

"I think it's the right decision to be made."

Hockey commentator Don Cherry is shown in Toronto in Feburary 2011. Sportsnet and the Coach's Corner star cut ties on Monday following his controversial remarks about immigrants. (Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press)

The team's message of inclusion was later repeated by coaching staff.

"It's one of the great things about our sport. It brings together a lot of different cultures," said head coach Travis Green.

Change in hockey culture

But Satwinder Bains says there's a history of visible minorities being excluded from fully participating in hockey culture.

"I think it's naive to say it brings us together," said the director of the Asian Studies Institute of the University of the Fraser Valley.

"Are there inequalities inherent in hockey ... in Canada? Yes, there are."

Bains said the sport's audience may be increasingly diverse, but many young kids still don't see themselves reflected among professional hockey players and coaches.

Hockey mom Sandy Horner comes face to face with the barriers facing visible minorities whenever she watches her two sons play at the Burnaby 8 Rinks.

"Every time my son gets called the n-word on the ice, we're always told there's nothing that can be done about it."

She hopes Cherry's dismissal signals a change in culture that will trickle down into local leagues and rinks.

At the same rink, Drew Rose said that as an Indigenous parent, he was offended when in 2015 Cherry compared eating seal meat to being "a savage" on air. Rose said those comments discriminated against Inuit people's traditional way of life.

"He's on Hockey Night in Canada every Saturday and he's a role model and he's gotta lead by example, and saying stuff like that just isn't right," said Rose.

Hockey parent Drew Rose says that Cherry has also made unacceptable comments about Inuit culture. (Enzo Zanatta / CBC)

But Cherry's supporters, who have been listening to his hockey commentary for decades, feel the dismissal was too harsh.

"I think he's a great hockey icon in the country and perhaps I think he deserves a second chance," said Brent McMillan.

For some, Cherry's personality is deeply intertwined with their hockey viewing habits.

"It's Don Cherry. He's 85," said Don Amor. "I watch Don every Saturday, so to take him away … I don't know who you're going to replace him with."