Thursday, July 29, 2004

Don Cherry re-signs with HNIC

After reports from the Globe and Mail on July 16 that Don Cherry would be returning to the CBC's top-rated Hockey Night in Canada program, the deal is now official. CBC Sports announced Grapes' return this afternoon, ending speculation that Cherry would be canned after years of controversial comments on "Coach's Corner." The deal is believed to be for one year, as all previous Grapes deals have been. Cherry, 70, will likely make $500,000, his salary last year. Ron MacLean is also set to return to "Coach's Corner." Also returning to Hockey Night in Canada are analysts Bob Cole, Kelly Hrudey, Greg Millen, and Harry Neale. In addition, former Canucks' president and general manager Brian Burke will join HNIC for its World Cup of Hockey tournament coverage, as well as regular season games. Finally, Flyers goaltender Sean Burke will do some in-studio analysis. Analyst Glenn Healy, who was asked to work exclusively at the CBC, declined so he could continue working for other outlets. It will be Hockey Night in Canada's 53rd season. Says Nancy Lee, executive director of CBC Sports:
"We're pleased to have Don, Bob, Kelly, Greg and Harry back for the upcoming season. Our fans have come to expect the highest quality from our show, and these commentators are the best and most insightful in the business."
Says Joel Darling, executive producer of Hockey Night in Canada, on the additions of the two Burke's:
"Adding Brian Burke and Sean Burke to our coverage of the World Cup is an added bonus. Sean has played on the international stage for Canada on several occasions and can provide valuable insight. Brian has proven to be a great guest on the show. His frank and thoughtful comments are sure to add excitement to the World Cup and regular season broadcasts."
Don Cherry has been on Hockey Night in Canada for 23 years. Cherry has bashed French/European hockey players, Canada's decision to not send troops to Iraq, and Sidney Crosby hot-dogging in the QMJHL, among others. The culmination of his controversial comments led to the CBC placing "Coach's Corner" on a seven-second delay. And in a country that works hard at maintaining unity with French and English speaking citizens, Cherry has insinuated that French hockey players are wimps: "Most of the guys that wear them [protective visors] are Europeans and French guys." In response to his derogatory remarks, Cherry was investigated by the Official Languages Commissioner of the Canadian Government. The World Cup of Hockey tournament runs from August 30 to September 14, and CBC Sports plans on airing all 19 games of the tournament. Hockey Night in Canada begins NHL coverage on October 16. My Views I expected the CBC to backtrack on its Cherry-bashing and keep him as the hallmark of Hockey Night in Canada. First of all, there was a rush of support behind Cherry's partner, Ron MacLean, when it was announced that he was leaving two years ago. MacLean never went anywhere. In addition, "Coach's Corner" has been the spike of Hockey Night in Canada (all of CBC, for that matter) ratings for the longest time, and that is solely due to Cherry's straightforward, no-nonsense approach to hockey analysis. Not only do hard-core hockey fans tune in, but people who change the channel to CBC just to watch Cherry's first intermission antics. The Archie Bunker in Don Cherry is what people love. Finally, with Cherry's status in the hockey world, it would be inevitable for another station (such as TSN and Rogers Sportsnet) to pick him if the CBC declined his services. That would essentially kill Hockey Night in Canada, the CBC's highest rated program. I am relieved that Don Cherry will be back in the hot seat (23 years and counting). Cherry is one of the biggest ambassadors of the game. He speaks from the heart (which gets him in some trouble) and gives hockey a grassroots, homey feel. As a hockey fan, I have been blessed with being able to watch Hockey Night in Canada from the United States (Detroit area gets CBC). I can confidently say that I wouldn't be the impassioned fan I am without segments like "Coach's Corner." Cherry before HNIC Cherry was a career minor league player (16 years) whose only NHL game came in the '55 playoffs with the Bruins. After retiring as a player, Cherry drifted away from the game and got a job as a construction worker. After the 38-year-old Cherry was layed off by foreman Whitney Smith, Cherry returned to the game as coach of the Boston Bruins three years later. In his coaching career with the Boston Bruins, Cherry translated his tough personality to making his team tough-as-nails and one of the best teams in the latter 1970's. It is also said that he modeled the Bruins' playing style after his dog, Blue (the one seen in the "Coach's Corner" theme). Cherry won the Jack Adams in 1976. The outspoken Cherry also had his faults. Coach was fired after the 1979 playoffs. This was due to his famous too-many-men-on-the-ice call in Game 7, versus the Canadiens, when the Bruins were up by a goal with less than two minutes remaining. The Canadiens tied the game on the powerplay and won in overtime. If you ever meet Don Cherry in person, do not ask him about that game. I'm sure many journalists could tell you why...


Post a Comment

Bookmark this post On the Wings

Search this site

<< Home

[Powered by Blogger]