Cherry reiterates need for Ontario-born players on Leafs


Unlike Rush Limbaugh, Don Cherry refused to apologize. The CBC’s high-collar enthusiast joined Sportsnet 590 The Fan this morning to address the comments he made Saturday night on Coach’s Corner connecting the Toronto Maple Leafs’ lack of Ontario-born players with their lack of success on the ice.

“Maybe I am prejudice,” Cherry said. “Maybe I am for Ontario players. … Go back to 1993. Think of all the guys. They were all from Ontario … We were promised truculence and we never got it. I had to say it. I was a little carried away but that’s how I feel.”

It’s easy to poke holes in Cherry’s theory, and plenty are doing it. But the Globe and Mail’s Bruce Dowbiggin argues there might be something bigger at stake – the CBC’s future as an NHL broadcaster. Because apparently it’s not just Brian Burke, the Vancouver Canucks, English teachers, etc. that have issues with Grapes and co-host Ron MacLean.

The league, too, has been less than enthusiastic about Cherry’s demeaning of the new rules, discipline czar Brendan Shanahan, and the refereeing. Commissioner Gary Bettman appears to be boycotting Hockey Night in Canada after several contentious interviews with MacLean. Some of this is predictable, of course. As the expression goes, journalism’s goal is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

But it is becoming clear that CBC may pay a price for countenancing the Ron ’n’ Don agenda of old-time values. NHL officials would not comment publicly on whether the pair would be an impediment to CBC retaining all or some of the next national TV rights package in Canada, which begin in 2014.

There’s already speculation that the CBC, a Canadian crown corporation, will have trouble outbidding Bell Media, a private media company that includes CTV and TSN, in 2014. Financially and politically, it might be untenable for a public broadcaster to commit the millions and millions of dollars it will take to keep the rights.

If you missed Cherry’s rant on Saturday, here it is:

Kassian suspended without pay, placed in Stage 2 of Substance Abuse Program

Anaheim Ducks v Vancouver Canucks
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Zack Kassian may have avoided major injuries stemming from his Sunday car accident, but it likely sent the signal that he may need help.

The response: he was placed in Stage Two of the Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program (SABH) of the NHL and NHLPA on Monday.

According to the league’s release, Kassian “will be suspended without pay until cleared for on-ice competition by the program administrators.”

Speaking of being suspended without pay, here’s a key detail:

The 24-year-old ended up with a broken nose and broken foot from that accident. The 2015-16 season was set to be his first campaign in the Montreal Canadiens organization after a tumultuous time with the Vancouver Canucks.

Kassian spoke of becoming more mature heading to Montreal, but the Canadiens were critical of his actions, wondering how many wake-up calls someone can get.

In case you’re wondering about the difference between stage one and two:

Add Lecavalier to list of expensive Flyers healthy scratches

Vincent Lecavalier

Are the Philadelphia Flyers aiming for some sort of record when it comes to expensive (potential) healthy scratches?

While lineups are obviously subject to change, notes that Vincent Lecavalier appears to be among a rather rich group of Flyers who are expected to sit during their season-opener.

Also likely to be in street clothes: Sam Gagner and Luke Schenn.

That’s $11.3 million in cap space rotting on the bench.

“I really don’t know what to say,” Lecavalier said. “I’ll practice hard and be ready when they call me up.”

The quotes from Lecavalier, Gagner and Schenn only get sadder from there, a reminder that there are human beings attached to these numbers – whether you focus on disappointing stats or bloated salaries.

Flyers fans with the urge to reach for an Alka-Setzler can at least take some comfort in knowing that the team will see $6.8 million in savings after this season, as both Gagner and Schenn are on expiring deals.

It could be a long season, though, and this Lecavalier headache may not truly end until his contract expires following the 2017-18 campaign.