Don Cherry fired from longtime ‘Hockey Night in Canada’ role following immigrant comments

Don Cherry has been fired by Sportsnet and will no longer appear on “Coach’s Corner” during “Hockey Night in Canada.”

“Sports brings people together — it unites us, not divides us. 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,” Sportsnet president Bart Yabsley said in a statement Monday afternoon.

The decision came less than 48 hours after Cherry made insensitive comments about Canada’s immigrants when discussing poppies, the official symbol of remembrance for Canadian veterans and those who served during times of war. 

“You people love, they come here, whatever it is, you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey. The least you could pay [is] a couple of bucks for a poppy or something like that,” Cherry said on Saturday night. “These guys pay for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada. These guys pay the biggest price.”

Sportsnet released a statement on Sunday, saying: “Don’s discriminatory comments are offensive and they do not represent our values and what we stand for as a network. We have spoken with Don about the severity of this issue and we sincerely apologize for these divisive remarks.”

Later that night, Cherry’s longtime partner Ron MacLean issued an on-air apology for not condemning him during the segment.

“Don Cherry made remarks which were hurtful, discriminatory, which were flat out wrong,” MacLean said. “We at Sportsnet have apologized. It certainly doesn’t stand for what Sportsnet or Rogers [Communications] represents. We know diversity is the strength of the country. We see it in travels with our show and with Hockey Night in Canada. I owe you an apology, too: that’s the big thing I want to emphasize. I sat there, did not catch it, did not respond.”

Cherry responded to news of his firing in an interview with the Toronto Sun. He said he had “no problem” with Sportsnet’s decision, but refused to apologize for his remarks.

“I know what I said and I meant it. Everybody in Canada should wear a poppy to honour our fallen soldiers,” Cherry said, via the Sun. “I speak the truth and I walk the walk. I have visited the bases of the troops, been to Afghanistan with our brave soldiers at Christmas, been to cemeteries of our fallen around the world and honoured our fallen troops on Coach’s Corner.”

“To keep my job, I cannot be turned into a tamed robot,” Cherry added.

Earlier Monday, the hashtag, #DonCherryIsRight was trending in Canada.

The firing ends a long-twisted road for the 85-year-old former NHL player and coach who became a polarizing figure in Canada for his controversial remarks for years, aimed at, among other things, European and French-Canadian players, women in the sports industry and the physicality of the sport.

A week ago, Cherry laughed when discussing Scott Sabourin’s injury that left the Ottawa Senator forward hospitalized.

Sportsnet has not said how or if it will replace Cherry’s “Coach’s Corner” segment moving forward.

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