How Don Cherry’s Comments Affect the Toronto Maple Leafs

Don Cherry (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Don Cherry (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images) /

The hockey world has been divided by Don Cherry’s recent comments. His words may have a direct effect on one member of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Hockey Night in Canada – which usually features the Toronto Maple Leafs – will no longer feature the outspoken former Boston Bruins coach, Don Cherry.

His comments, made during the Coach’s Corner broadcast during the first intermission of the November 9th game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Philadelphia Flyers, sparked outrage in some viewers. The whirlwind of anger now puts specific players into focus, including a member of the Maple Leafs.

Don Cherry was terminated from his contract with Rogers Sportsnet after he made xenophobic remarks on the air. Specifically, he said, “you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey, at least you can pay a couple bucks for a poppy or something like that. These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada, these guys paid the biggest price.”

After Cherry was widely condemned for his rant on social media, the company that put him on the airwaves took note and issued a release distancing themselves from his views. Bart Yabsley, the president of Sportsnet, was quoted in a tweet from Sportsnet’s PR. The statement read:

"“Don’s descriminatory comments are offensive and they do not represent and what we starnd for as a network. We have spoken with Don about the severity of this issue as we sincerely apologize for these divisive remarks.”"

Sportsnet followed up the following day with an additional tweet. Its purpose was to inform the public that Cherry would “immediately step down”.

The discussion about Cherry the man and the words he chose garnered great discussion, even outside of hockey circles. Cherry wasted little time defending himself by doing interviews on both radio and television, including being a guest on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show.

Bobby Orr Weighs In

Not everyone is critical of Cherry. There have been many vocal fans who have expressed their support of the 85-year-old. Even his old friend and former player, Bobby Orr, made his position clear. Orr went on the Boston radio station WEEI to let everyone know that he stands behind Cherry. Orr said, “What they’ve done to him up there is disgraceful. It really is.”

By Orr inserting himself in the conversation, it opens him up to be questioned about his beliefs and priorities. While he hasn’t yet been vilified by the media, there is the potential that he gets asked to solidify his thinking on immigration and xenophobia. This would likely have already taken place if Orr made himself more available to the media.

Hailed as the greatest defenseman to ever play the game, Orr now owns and works at Orr Hockey Group, an agency that represents NHL players. They represent several big names in the league including one member of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Travis Dermott. They also represent the Toronto Marlies forward, Jeremy Bracco.

Those players may be asked to share their opinions on Cherry and Orr due to the link that has now been established. While the media storm has begun to quiet, there is a real possibility that both Dermott and Bracco are still questioned for their association with their agency, especially with Cherry now pontificating on a new podcast.

Cherry has already released the first episode of DC’s Grapevine.

In his inaugural episode, he talks about one of hockey’s greats, Maurice Richard. But most listeners want to hear what he had to say about the end of his relationship with Hockey Night in Canada. On that episode Cherry issued no apologies, and disappointingly still did not seem to understand or reflect on the problem.  He instead tried to play the whole thing off as political correctness run amok where he is the true victim.

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So long as Cherry continues to broadcast and maintain a public profile, the hockey world will be reminded of his November 9th show. While it may not be fair to Dermott and Bracco, they will remain tied to it all as well.