Cherry reiterates need for Ontario-born players on Leafs

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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: