Ron MacLean addressed Don Cherry’s dismissal with a lengthy monologue during the first intermission of Saturday’s “Hockey Night in Canada” broadcast, saying “we are all hurting.”
The segment started cold, with no music – just a sombre MacLean addressing the camera for almost five minutes in a rambling eulogy of sorts for the end of Coach’s Corner.
“You know the story, the Coach’s Corner is no more,” said MacLean, who added he spent the week reflecting and listening to his own heart.
“I’ve struggled mightily to find the words and I’m not sure I have them even now, but, they say it’s a good thing because when you can find the words, it’s dead in your heart. And it’s not dead in my heart.”
MacLean talked at length about his close relationship with Cherry.
“This one plunged deeply into our hearts. You know why? Because it’s about relationships – Don’s and mine, the Coach’s Corner and yours, yours and Don’s,” said MacLean, explaining his decision to part ways after a 38-year run on Hockey Night.
Cherry’s run on Hockey Night ended Monday, when Sportsnet fired the 85-year-old after he made on-air comments last Saturday which many felt were critical of immigrants for not wearing Remembrance Day poppies.
“There were steps that needed to be taken and because of what had been said by Don. And he didn’t want to do those steps. So he made his choice and I made mine and then the next choice, which was a really hard choice – probably the sleepless nights all week are mostly about this; Don’s my guy, I’m in a foxhole with Don and I’ve decided to go one way and he another. And you say, ok, how can you choose principle over friendship, but I had to.”
“Don taught me to stand, so I had to have the courage of my convictions and that’s what I’ll say about you Don. …you taught me to be that guy and so here I am, sort of standing up and taking this position. But that doesn’t mean anything in terms of my respect for you or my judgement of you.”
Cherry’s departure sparked much discussion among hockey fans about what the future of the popular segment might hold.
Sportsnet has not said what direction the long-running first-intermission segment will take and MacLean gave very little indication as to its future as well, saying only that he hoped out of this “really bad, unexpected thing” they can do some good things.
MacLean closed his comments by calling Cherry “a fantastic human being.”
“I love you very much and we honour you tonight in this last talk about a Coach’s Corner.”
In place of the usual Ron and Don banter, the network chose to highlight the 2019 Hockey Hall of Fame inductees during Saturday’s first intermission. MacLean interviewed Hayley Wickenheiser and Guy Carbonneau, two of this year’s inductees. Wickenheiser mentioned Cherry in that short, three-minute segment, saying she appreciated that “he was always talking about women’s hockey.”
Cherry, a native of Kingston, Ont., joined HNIC in 1980 as a playoff analyst and was so popular that he was kept on as a colour commentator. CBC later created “Coach’s Corner” as a vehicle to showcase Cherry with MacLean eventually replacing Dave Hodge as his sidekick.
Watch: Ron MacLean’s full statement during the first intermission of Saturday night’s game
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