Former Coach’s Corner host Don Cherry was unapologetic on his resurrected Grapevine podcast Tuesday, in its first episode since he was fired from Hockey Night in Canada for a rant that seemed to target immigrants.
Cherry addressed his dismissal from Sportsnet early in the podcast, echoing many of the comments he made during a media tour last week.
“Evidently I said something that upset Sportsnet, and they canned me, and now I’m unemployed except for doing this beautiful podcast,” Cherry told his son and co-host, Tim Cherry. He later complained that people didn’t take notice of the other things he discussed on his final Coach’s Corner segment.
“Just two little words just seemed to set everybody off,” he said. “I lived in a vicious world and I lasted 38 years,” he added. “If I’ve got to go, I’m glad I’m going out on my shield.”
WATCH: Don Cherry sits down with Global News reporter Morganne Campbell.
Tim Cherry then chimed in with the accusation that “they had their guns set on you,” without specifying who “they” meant. “I think there was a lot of fake outrage, and that’s what happened,” he said.
Don Cherry, 85, recorded the podcast alongside his son, Tim, while his grandson, Del, managed the recording. The 27-minute podcast debuted late Monday on Spotify under the misspelled title DC’s Grapvine. (Yes, it should be Grapevine.)
Sportsnet dismissed Cherry on Nov. 11, two days after he appeared to target immigrants with a rambling sidebar during his annual Remembrance Day tribute on Coach’s Corner.
“You people 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 of bucks for a poppy,” he said.
The comments triggered intense backlash from many who accused Cherry of singling out immigrants, particularly after he described seeing people who weren’t wearing poppies in his hometown of Mississauga. The implication was that Cherry was judging who is and who isn’t an immigrant based on the colour of their skin.
Sportsnet, which owns Hockey Night in Canada, distanced itself from Cherry’s comments in a statement the following day. Ron MacLean, who co-hosted Coach’s Corner, also apologized for not interrupting Cherry’s tirade.
Sportsnet announced on Nov. 11 that Cherry had been dismissed.
“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 said in its statement. “He made divisive remarks that do not represent our values or what we stand for.”
MacLean delivered a heartfelt address about Cherry’s ouster last Saturday, speaking in the first-intermission timeslot once occupied by Coach’s Corner. Parts of MacLean’s speech were specifically directed at his “friend,” Don Cherry.
“They heard Ron’s version,” Cherry said on his podcast. “He’s still a friend. I’m a little disappointed, but I won’t go any further than that.”
Cherry offered his own muddled version of what happened in the time between his last show and his dismissal. He initially said “nobody” talked to him, then he said he offered to address his comments.
“I offered to explain, and I guess – not an apology, but I was going to smooth it over, and they made conditions that made it impossible … to do it. I just couldn’t do it.”
Cherry added that he stands by what he said. “I still say everybody in Canada should wear a poppy.”
Cherry’s re-emergence comes while the debate continues to rage over his ouster.
Cherry’s critics have argued that the firing was long overdue, as he has a long history of making insensitive and potentially racist remarks. He has used his national pulpit to attack French-Canadians, Russians and Europeans in the past. He has also described people who eat seal meat as “savages,” suggested that women don’t belong in a hockey locker room and labelled people who trust the science of climate change as “cuckaloos.”
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Others have stood by Cherry, describing his dismissal as “cancel culture gone too far.” Some have even gone on the offensive, calling for CTV host Jessica Allen to be fired for her comments on the situation. Allen apologized last week for suggesting that, in her experience, those who “worship at the altar of hockey… tended to be white boys who weren’t, let’s say, very nice.” She made the comments on CTV’s show The Social.
CTV later apologized to “everyone who was offended by the remarks,” although it also said it would not “restrict our hosts from offering their opinions on an opinion show.”
— CTV Communications (@CTV_PR) November 14, 2019
The rest of Cherry’s podcast hewed largely to the same topics as his weekly segments. He shared scattered recollections of his brief coaching career, revisited his playing days and went off on a tangent about his son Tim’s Boston accent. He also ran a decades-old interview he conducted with Montreal Canadiens great Maurice “Rocket” Richard, then reflected on how the interview went.
Tim Cherry said future episodes would follow the same format, with a mix of old stories, new interviews and old clips from Cherry’s Grapevine show in the 1980s and ’90s.
Don Cherry added that he still feels like he has the right people on his side.
“The policemen are with me. The servicemen are with me, the armed forces are with me and the firemen are with me,” he said. “They’re pretty good guys to have in your corner.”
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