When I was a kid, I looked forward to Saturday nights more than anything else. Not because it was a night off of school followed by a morning where I could sleep in, but because it was Hockey Night in Canada.
When I think of the Saturday nights of my childhood, I think of the couch at my cottage, our TV that only had channel three CBC, my dad having a beer, my brother getting excited about Martin Brodeur’s new goalie pads…and Don Cherry.
Little me enjoyed the funky suits and the loud-mouthed old man who reminded me of my grandpa. Plus, Ron MacLean is kind of a silver fox? I digress. Little me really saw nothing wrong with Don Cherry. I once spent two of the five dollars my mom gave me for my school’s used book fair on a VHS copy of Don Cherry’s Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em: Volume 2, and “gifted” it back to my family.
But, as time passed, my frontal lobe started to develop. You know, the part of your brain that eventually allows you to foresee the consequences of your actions. Once that happened, it was easy for me to see that the man was problematic. I found myself regularly asking the question, “did he really just say that?” Over time, I came to see that he was completely incapable of calculating the weight of his words, and made absolutely no sense more often than not. Coach’s Corner made a swift change from something I looked forward to every week, to an opportunity to change the channel and catch up on something more interesting during intermission.
I initially wanted to write this article as a sort of “Exhibit A through Z” of instances in which Cherry has said something that made my skin crawl, but honestly, do a Google search and you’ll find a hundred other articles that do just that. So, instead, I’ll just highlight my personal favourite. It isn’t my favourite because it’s funny – in fact, it isn’t funny at all – but it comes to mind because I vividly remember tweeting my frustration at the time, and random men on Twitter replying to me exactly as you’d expect them to.
In 2018, during the PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games, a photo circulated of Canadian women’s hockey player Meghan Agosta, who also worked as a police officer for the Vancouver Police Department. She was posing in uniform in front of her police cruiser; hockey gloves and stick in hand, skates and helmet resting on the hood. During the next airing of Coach’s Corner, Don Cherry pulled up the photo of her on millions of Canadians’ screens and remarked that she looked like a Sports Illustrated model. Nothing about the fact that she was the team’s assistant captain, nothing about the fact that she is a three-time Olympic gold medalist (not to mention her numerous other athletic accomplishments), just the fact that the photo suited his imagination’s needs.
Let’s not forget for a second that we don’t hear about Olympic men’s hockey team players working day jobs – at all – because they’re paid more than adequately for their athletic contributions to the earth and don’t need the extra income.
So, that’s when I knew I was absolutely done with Don. That was almost two years ago. He is brash, inconsiderate, and arguably senile. Sure, he represents Canada, but he hasn’t represented any Canadian values that I care to partake in, in a very long time (he appeared on Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight a mere day after his firing, just in case there were any doubts about just how far-right he is). Plus, my dear Ron MacLean was a ticking time bomb with Cherry by his side. I’m actually sad that we never got to see him snap: “Don! Cut the shit, we only have seven minutes! We get it, he’s a good old boy from Southern Ontario!”
Time was up, and Sportsnet did the right thing. There are a plethora of better-spoken former hockey legends out there. Let’s all hang in there, and make Hockey Night in Canada great again, shall we?
Graphic by @joeybruceart