Hockey Night In Canada

Sportsnet fires Don Cherry following Coach’s Corner comments

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Rogers Sportsnet has fired Don Cherry following his comments during Saturday’s Coach’s Corner segment on Hockey Night in Canada.

“Sports brings people together – it unites us, not divides us,” read the statement released by Rogers Sportsnet on Monday. “Following further discussions with Don Cherry after Saturday Night’s broadcast, it has been decided it is the right time for him to immediately step down. During the broadcast, he made divisive remarks that do not represent our values or what we stand for. Don is synonymous with hockey and has played an integral role in growing the game over the past 40 years. We would like to thank Don for his contributions to hockey and sports broadcasting in Canada.”

During a rant about seeing people in the Greater Toronto Area not wearing poppies to honor fallen soldiers, the 85-year commentator singled out immigrants ahead of Remembrance Day on Monday.

“I live in Mississauga, nobody … very few people … wear a poppy. Downtown Toronto, forget it, nobody wears a poppy. Now you go to the small cities … And the rows on rows … you people who come here, 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,” Cherry said. “These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada, these guys paid the biggest price.”

The negative response to Cherry’s comments caused Sportsnet president Bart Yabsley to issue a statement on Sunday saying that the comments do no reflect what the network represents. Cherry’s Coach’s Corner co-host, Ron MacLean, apologized on Twitter and during Sunday’s “Hometown Hockey” broadcast.

“Don Cherry made remarks which were hurtful, discriminatory, which were flat out wrong … I owe you an apology, too. I sat there, did not catch it, did not respond. Last night was a really great lesson to Don and me. We were wrong, and I sincerely apologize. I wanted to thank you for calling me and Don on that last night.”

The NHL responded with a statement of its own:

Cherry, who coached the Boston Bruins for five seasons before becoming a full-time hockey commentator with the CBC in 1981, refused to apologize, telling the Toronto Sun, “I have had my say.” Following the news of his firing, he told the paper, “I know what I said and I meant it. Everybody in Canada should wear a poppy to honour our fallen soldiers.”

No word yet on how Sportsnet plans to use the first intermission of the early Saturday Hockey Night in Canada game yet.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Canadian broadcaster Bob Cole ends 50-year career

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MONTREAL (AP) — Long-time Canadian broadcaster Bob Cole has always said the focus should be on the players – not him.

There was little chance of that on Saturday night.

The play-by-play man called his last game for ”Hockey Night in Canada” to cap a 50-year run behind the microphone.

The regular-season finale in Montreal between the Canadiens and the playoff-bound Toronto Maple Leafs was meaningless in the standings, sharpening the focus even more so on the 85-year-old Cole.

”This game had been billed long ago as the biggest game of the season,” Cole said as he opened the broadcast at the Bell Centre. ”It was not to be, but pride is always on the line – Leafs and Canadiens.

”Here we go.”

The pregame show on Sportsnet and CBC began with a montage featuring some of hockey’s great moments, with Cole’s voice providing the soundtrack.

NHL greats including Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and Joe Sakic, current stars Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid and Patrick Kane, as well as host Ron MacLean and Cole’s former color commentator Harry Neale all feted the native of St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador.

”Mr. Cole, congratulations on 50 great years of hockey. You were an inspiration to all of us in Canada,” Gretzky said, before adding the broadcaster’s most recognizable line: ”Ohhhhh baby.”

Players from the Leafs and Canadiens met with Cole and took pictures with him before the game, while his family was on hand to share the moment.

Cole was inducted into Hockey Hall of Fame in 1996 as a recipient of the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award for broadcasting excellence.

His career with ”Hockey Night in Canada” started with a radio broadcast of a playoff game in 1969 at the old Boston Garden between the Bruins and Canadiens. He moved to TV in 1973 and would go on to describe countless hockey moments for millions of fans across the country.

There was the 1972 Summit Series, the Edmonton Oilers’ dynasty of the 1980s and Canada’s gold-medal victory at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City that snapped a 50-year drought.

Cole saw his workload scaled back in recent years by Rogers, which took over national TV rights via Sportsnet ahead of the 2014-15 season. He didn’t call any playoff games last spring for the first time in his career, and got 16 dates on the 2018-19 season.

”You have to feel the game – breathe it – the timing, the sounds you’re creating,” Cole said in the night’s taped opening. ”When you get 20,000 (fans) roaring after a play, it’s perfect.”

”The great players are special people,” he added. ”I’ve enjoyed that over the years. It’s a great privilege.”

The night also included tributes to the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team on the one-year anniversary of the devastating bus crash that killed 16 people and left 13 others injured.

Don Cherry praised Cole during his Coach’s Corner segment in the first intermission, which opened with archive footage of the pair.

”Foster (Hewitt) was good, Danny (Gallivan) was good,” Cherry said of Cole’s Hockey Night predecessors. ”But the best of all, I think, and I’ve seen them all, is Bob Cole.”

Players, coaches and fans stood in appreciation to honor Cole in the second period as his four children joined him in the gondola he helped design at Bell Centre.

”Thank you so much Montreal and Canada,” he said to viewers, gazing from his perch. ”It’s been a pleasure.

”I’m going to miss this.”

Following a breathless, end-to-end overtime where Cole sounded as good as ever, the game ended with Montreal winning in a shootout.

”It’s been great here in Montreal,” Cole said as he signed off. ”Thank you, so many people.

”We had some fun here tonight.”

More AP NHL: http://www.apnews.com/NHL and http://www.twitter.com/AP-Sports

CBC’s exclusive window to extend NHL deal closing

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The cost to get rights to broadcast the NHL in Canada may wind up being too costly for Canada’s national broadcaster.

CBC, the home of Hockey Night in Canada, has an exclusive window to negotiate a new deal to carry the NHL that ends in August. As Steve Ladurantaye of The Globe And Mail shares, time is running out, money is tight, and TSN is eager to pounce on the rights.

But the league must step lightly – both broadcasters have reasons to let the NHL pass them by. “This isn’t a slam dunk for the NHL by any means,” one broadcast executive said. “It’s not as straightforward as someone might think.”

CBC has had Saturday night hockey since 1953 and the current deal expires after this season. Ladurantaye says CBC could lose as much as $175 million if they lose out on the TV package. Hockey broadcasts are also a big money winner for CBC to help them produce other shows.

It would be hard to imagine not seeing Hockey Night in Canada on CBC anymore. If the cost is too high, Don Cherry and his wild suits and opinions might wind up elsewhere.

Report: CBC under pressure to muzzle Don Cherry

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Don Cherry has said some interesting things lately. He’s clashed with Leafs GM Brian Burke, scolded the Toronto Maple Leafs for not having Ontario-born players on their active roster, and explained why he thought Saskatoon could be home to an NHL team.

Sometimes his commentary is fun, sometimes it’s bizarre, but he certainly has his supporters as well as detractors. Now, according to reports, that might all be slowly coming to an end as CBC deals with pressure to muzzle him.

Reportedly, it’s not just Burke that’s unhappy with Cherry at this point and CBC might end up overhauling their popular Coach’s Corner segment and perhaps Hockey Night in Canada in general. Such a move might be seen as a way to modernize the show and shift the focus away from Cherry, but doing so would be a significant gamble. Like Cherry or hate him, he knows how to draw a crowd and any move to marginalize and move past Cherry might hurt them in the ratings game. On the flip side, a successful transition will eventually be necessary in the long run.

Watch CBC’s Ron MacLean apologize to Alex Burrows

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Kind of a surreal moment on Hockey Night in Canada yesterday when host Ron MacLean spent roughly two minutes apologizing to Vancouver winger Alex Burrows.

For those that missed it, here’s the video:

Burrows and MacLean have had a contentious relationship dating back to last year, stemming from the Burrows-Stephane Auger incident. MacLean was roundly criticized (primarily by Vancouverites) for his anti-Burrows stance on the matter, some of which is displayed here:

Then, on last week’s episode of Coach’s Corner, the topic of MacLean’s *alleged* dislike of Burrows came up again. This time it was Don Cherry insinuating the host had a problem with the Canucks winger allegedly opening the bench gate door when Ottawa’s Jesse Winchester was hit by Maxim Lapierre:

(FF to the 1:54 mark)

The real smoking gun was this exchange:

Cherry: I know you don’t like Burrows and I know you have a history with him.
MacLean: I don’t even know about this.
Cherry: You said he opened the gate on purpose.
MacLean: No, no that’s what they say on the show.
Cherry: Ya, ya they said, and I’m saying, I know you don’t…
MacLean: But I don’t know if he did it, I haven’t seen it.
Cherry: What do you mean you didn’t see it? You wanted me to show it.
MacLean: I didn’t see it when it happened. No, no I’m just saying…
Cherry: Anyhow, yes you did, you have a history with Burrows.

MacLean issued his apology prior to the Canucks-Leafs game…and Burrows proceeded to notch two points and earn first star honors in a 5-3 win.

“I just felt good, and confident and I felt like I could make plays,” Burrows said following the game. “We had so time in their zone, especially early when we weren’t scoring. I was sniffing for tips and rebounds, and when I feel like that, you know it’s going to come sooner or later.

“I know the (HNIC) has their opinions and I know they have a job to do. If they feel some nights I’m wrong, they have to say it. It’s never affected me. But it has affected my parents, a little bit more, and the people who know me.”

The line of the night, though, came from Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault.

“I really liked Henk’s line, and especially the way Alex played tonight,” he said. “I think he had something to prove to Ron MacLean.

“I’m just kidding about that. We don’t care about Ron.”