Don Cherry rant 'way off base' but firing unfortunate, say some at Toronto rink
Reaction at Moss Park Arena about firing of hockey commentator decidedly mixed
A handful of people at a downtown rink say it's unfortunate Don Cherry has been fired, but all agree he shouldn't have made the "You people" comments about immigrants.
Cherry, 85, a longtime hockey broadcaster, said in his Coach's Corner segment on Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday that newcomers are not wearing poppies to honour Canada's war dead.
"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," said Cherry, who began headlining the Coach's Corner segment in the early 1980s after gaining fame in the 1970s as the head coach of the National Hockey League's Boston Bruins.
"These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada, these guys paid the biggest price," he said as he talked about Canadian war veterans.
On Monday in a statement, the company that produces Hockey Night In Canada, Sportsnet, reacted swiftly, saying it has cut ties with Cherry, who has stirred up controversy in the past with his disparaging comments about European and French Canadian hockey players, and his criticism of the Canadian government for not joining the Iraq War back in 2003.
At Moss Park Arena in Toronto, however, there was some sympathy for Cherry and his unfailing enthusiasm for hockey. A parent, a player and a coach reacted to the news of his firing and the reaction was mixed.
Billy Scott, a hockey dad, said Cherry is iconic and he has a right to express himself. He said Cherry shouldn't have been fired.
"He's like the legend of hockey. You don't take Don Cherry away from the game, that's all," Scott said.
"He has freedom of speech. Some of the things he shouldn't have said. Some of the things he goes overboard about, but that's Don Cherry on every Saturday. He always has his comments. He always speaks his mind.
"It's Don Cherry, you gotta love him. He is hockey," he added.
"He's always there for the kids. He's always at hockey arenas, doing things. You're always going to have people knocking him. The critics are going to put him down. I will never look down on him because he's Don Cherry."
Greg Mathews, a hockey player, agreed, saying his firing is a loss.
"I think it's unfortunate, the whole thing. Don has been getting a little over the top but I'm sorry to see him go. I'd like to see him continue in some way and maybe for the thing to be smoothed over," Mathews said.
"A lot of us who have lived here forever, and have played the game, we enjoy Coach's Corner and I'm sure we would like to see it continue."
But Alexander Markovic, a youth hockey coach, disagreed, saying his comments were "way off base" and clearly inappropriate.
"He said what? You just can't do that. I guess the writing was on the wall for a little while now. When it's time to go, it's time to go," he said.
"To go on a rant the way in which he did and targeting the people that he targeted, it's not the hockey way. When you have that kind of a platform, the responsibility is enormous and you need to be able to shoulder that responsibility."
Markovic said, however, that Cherry has another side to his personality and he is not just loud and boisterous. He also had "nothing but kind and encouraging words to say" for young people who play hockey.
"Everybody remembers what you do last."
With files from Kelda Yuen