Don Cherry, the former Bruins coach whose garish attire and outlandish commentary made him a hockey broadcasting icon, was fired Monday by Sportsnet in Canada following remarks in which he accused immigrants of not being patriotic.
The news comes two days after the 85-year-old Cherry ranted during his “Coach’s Corner” segment on a “Hockey Night In Canada” broadcast about the lack of poppies he had seen people wearing leading up to Remembrance Day in his hometown of Mississauga, Ontario, as well as Toronto.
“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,’’ said Sportsnet president Bart Yabsley in a statement.
Cherry intimated that immigrants — referred to in his comments as “you people’’ — were neglecting to pay proper tribute.
“You people love — you, that come here, whatever it is — you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey. At least you could pay a couple bucks for a poppy or something like that,” said Cherry. “These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada. These guys paid the biggest price.”
Poppies traditionally are worn on Remembrance Day in Canada, inspired by the World War I poem “In Flanders Fields,” in which the author, John McCrae, writes of the poppies in the field where soldiers died. The idea for the poppies as a symbol of remembrance was conceived by American professor Moina Michael.
The backlash to Cherry’s commentary was immediate and overwhelming. According to CTV — Canada’s main news network — so many viewers took issue with his comments that the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council could no longer accept formal complaints.
Yabsley issued a brief statement Sunday: “We have spoken with Don about the severity of this issue and we sincerely apologize for these divisive remarks.’’
Cherry was not part of Sunday’s broadcast. Fellow broadcaster Ron MacLean apologized at the top of the show, but Cherry had not made a public statement. He did tell a Toronto Sun reporter Sunday, “I have had my say.”
Cherry coached the Bruins from the 1974-75 to 1978-79 seasons, leading them to back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals in 1976-77 and 1977-78. In Game 7 of the 1979 Eastern Conference finals against the rival Canadiens, the Bruins led with three minutes remaining but were called for too many men on the ice. The Canadiens tied the game on the power play and then won in overtime, going on to win the Cup. Cherry was fired after the season.
Cherry joined CBC’s hockey coverage in the early ’80s, and he has been partnered with MacLean on “Coach’s Corner” since 1986.
Cherry found his way into hot water before. In 2013, he defended Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith’s rude treatment of a female reporter by saying women didn’t belong in the locker room. He once called a concussion settlement a “money grab” by former players. He also labeled a trio of retired enforcers, among them former Bruin Chris Nilan, as “pukes” when they spoke out about the dangers of the job.