Premium

Canada More Sensitive to Immigrants Than Their Troops? Hockey Host Don Cherry Fired Over Pro-Military Comments After Four Decades on Air

(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

The softening of the Great White North continues.

The irony is Canada, while a country that embraces one of the toughest sports to be played, has been getting increasingly softer on a social and political stage. And almost as if to prove it is on the wrong tack Don Cherry, one of that country’s biggest names in sports, has been abruptly fired for comments made Saturday evening.

It is all over sensitivities and public perception in a nation that has become known for stifling free speech over politically correct issues. Cherry is no stranger to controversy and in fact, his entire persona on the air is of him being a firebrand. The former player and coach is known for wearing outlandish sport coats and then being even louder than his attire. On Saturday evening’s broadcast he was adorned rather conservatively in a dark coat, and he spoke warmly of support for Canadian military personnel.

Like our nation today Canada is honoring troops in what is called Remembrance Day. Traditionally citizens purchase and wear red poppies today as a way of supporting their military. On Saturday night Cherry — an avowed backer of the troops — commented on how few immigrants in Canada he sees wearing the poppies. “You people… love our way of life, love our milk and honey. At least you could pay a couple of bucks for poppies or something like that. These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada.”

As is easy to imagine, this is the type of commentary that will enrage sensitivities. By the timing of things, it appears the network went to Cherry to have him apologize for his comments. An official press release was issued by the Broadcaster on Sunday, and today after that period Cherry was fired. Tellingly his longtime on-air co-host Ron McLean has retained his job, after McLean issued an apology.

Note in this clip of Cherry’s Saturday comments McLean is seen nodding in agreement to his partner’s words, and even flashes a thumbs up at the end of his pro-troops rant. But by following the company edict this becomes excusable.

Don Cherry is not one to turn linguini-spined on such issues. He told Joe Warmington of the Toronto Sun:

“I have just learned I’ve been fired by Sportsnet for comments made on Coach’s Corner Nov. 9,” Cherry told me in a phone interview. “No problem.” Cherry added: “I know what I said and I meant it. Everybody in Canada should wear a poppy to honour our fallen soldiers.”

At least some Canadian citizens off the ice have not become a version of Prime Minister Trudeau. Don Cherry even after his ouster — and quite probably the cause of his ouster — refuses to alter his position.

To keep my job, I cannot be turned into a tamed robot,” said Cherry. There is still some hope in this age of triggered sensitivities that common sense and a stern character can be found.