NHL

'You will see us on Saturday': Ron MacLean mum on what HNIC will look like post-Cherry

Ron MacLean says he will be on the air this Saturday night, but there's no word on what the first intermission of the long-running Hockey Night in Canada broadcast will look like.

Supporters of Coach's Corner protest outside Rogers' Toronto headquarters

Ron MacLean, left, and Don Cherry are pictured in 2014 at the announcement of Rogers Sportsnet's hockey coverage following the company's acquisition of national NHL broadcast rights. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

Ron MacLean says he will be on the air this Saturday night, but there's no word on what the first intermission of the long-running Hockey Night in Canada broadcast will look like.

Since 1982, it has been home to Don Cherry and his Coach's Corner segment, which MacLean has co-hosted since 1986. But the 85-year-old Cherry was fired by Rogers Sportsnet on Monday for remarks he made in his Nov. 9 segment about immigrants not appearing to wear poppies.

"You will see us on Saturday," MacLean said when asked by CBC on Wednesday if he would be on the air, but declined to comment further. A spokesperson told The Canadian Press the network was "considering options" for the broadcast.

"I am not saying anything yet to the subject right now," MacLean told the CBC. "I have to have these days to make sure I'm right in what I say this weekend. To think about all that is going on and process it. And that's where I'm at. And I'll leave it at that."

On an NHL broadcast on Sunday, MacLean did apologize for Cherry's remarks and his lack of response.

WATCH | Ron MacLean addresses Don Cherry's 'hurtful' remarks:

Cherry made comments on Hockey Night in Canada regarding new Toronto citizens not wearing poppies. 1:04

About 20 people gathered peacefully outside Rogers headquarters in Toronto on Wednesday afternoon to protest Cherry's firing.

Some Cherry supporters stood silently on the sidewalk with Canadian flags while others raised placards in the air. One sign said "Cancel culture is wrong," while another said, "Rogers cancels Don, we cancel Rogers."

On Saturday's segment, Cherry used the phrase, "You people," but has denied that he was singling out visible minorities.

WATCH | Don Cherry tells CBC he regrets his choice of words:

Don Cherry speaks to CBC News after being fired for comments he made 3:05

"He's a true Canadian, someone that you're proud to have in this country to represent Canada," said supporter Paul Vanin. "To me, I feel sad that people actually — just for a mistake that he made — they're trashing him. They said, 'You're done.' I don't know about that."

HNIC was a longtime CBC Saturday night staple, but the show and its games moved to Sportsnet in 2014 after Rogers agreed to a lucrative, long-term rights deal with the National Hockey League. Coach's Corner and HNIC are still broadcast on CBC in a sub-licensing deal with Rogers Media, which owns Sportsnet.

WATCH | Ron MacLean, and Canada, are 'still processing' Cherry's firing: 

Cherry's comments on Saturday night have been a polarizing topic of discussion across the country. 2:21

Protesters remained rather quiet on what was an unseasonably cold autumn afternoon. Some Cherry supporters held court with reporters while others let out an occasional chant to voice their displeasure at his ouster.

"He's someone who loves this country and is very passionate," added Vanin, who said he's a Canadian immigrant. "I love people like him that are sincere. Sometimes because they speak from the heart, they also make a mistake. I'm the same way sometimes because I'm very passionate. That's why I like the man."

A consistent needle-mover throughout his career, Cherry's firing has dominated the Canadian news cycle since his departure was announced Monday. It was no surprise that some two dozen media members — about a 1-1 ratio to protesters — took in the proceedings on a downtown sidewalk.

WATCH | Don Cherry's comments on Coach's Corner:

Don Cherry sparked online backlash on Saturday night for his comments about immigrants not wanting to wear poppies ahead of Remembrance Day. 0:50

Some passing motorists honked in support of the protest. Curious Rogers employees took pictures from the second-floor food court overlooking the building entrance. Security guards kept watch nearby and a couple Toronto Police cruisers sat across the road.

With his over-the-top bombast and on-air chutzpah, Cherry has always been a polarizing broadcaster. His final segment and eventual firing have been just as divisive, with social media providing a feeding ground for both sides on the issue.

Many prominent hockey observers have steered clear of the controversy. But the subject has been a hot talking point for news/talk radio and television panels, including the CTV daytime show The Social.

In Wednesday's opening segment, correspondent Jessica Allen acknowledged that she "struck a nerve with many people" after voicing her thoughts on the Cherry subject and hockey culture.

She told viewers a day earlier that she doesn't "worship at the altar of hockey" and found in her experience that those who did "all tended to be white boys who weren't, let's say, very nice," adding that "they were not generally thoughtful, they were often bullies."

The hashtag "FireJessAllen" was soon created and many hockey parents expressed anger over the comments. Allen later clarified that she was only speaking to her own experiences with specific people who were hockey players.

Since his departure, Cherry has made the media rounds on a number of regional and national outlets. The 85-year-old also appeared on the Fox News channel's "Tucker Carlson Tonight" show in the United States on Tuesday night.

With files from CBC Sports

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