No More Flashy Saturday Night Outfits on CBC – For Now

I am no hockey fanatic by any stretch; but there was a time when I did watch hockey – a lot, but never played the game.
In my younger years I looked forward to weekends, especially Saturday night. It meant tuning in to CBC television for Hockey Night In Canada; a bunch of us (old school friends) regularly got together to enjoy games featuring les Canadiens de Montreal while chomping on pizza and guzzling some brand of beer.
It was a nice time to be a hockey fan back then; hockey was more fun, especially watching the local team regularly wracking up victories. It became a habit.
But as more immediate and important life matters invariably occupied more of my time, my interest in the game began to wane, especially with the NHL becoming more crowded with expansion.
Along with game highlights there was that end-of-period Hockey Night In Canada intermission staple, a serving of Coach’s Corner, featuring Don Cherry.
In its heyday, I found the segment quite interesting as the iconic Don Cherry in his trademark bombastic style talked hockey talked hockey with his counterpart Ron Mc Lean. The man knows hockey. He was a successful coach, especially in his heyday with the Boston Bruins, an era of intense rivalry with the Montreal Canadiens.
In post retirement he was able to remain relevant, making a smooth transition from behind the bench to (in front of the television cameras), becoming a weekly staple on the popular Coach’s Corner, co-hosted by longtime sidekick Ron MacLean, where he was afforded extensive latitude on the flow of the segment, which were initially hockey-related, but in recent years the segment began to veer into other areas – removed from hockey.
As stated, in intervening years I lost interest in hockey, and by extension “Coach’s Corner. There were too many teams and too much hockey to watch. Furthermore, Don Cherry was veering into areas far removed from hockey; Issues of socio-political import in which he wasn’t schooled, but because of his media profile began to opine.
So when on last Saturday, November 10th’s edition of Coach’s Corner, Don Cherry, Grapes as he is fondly called by his contemporaries and former players (in lending to the perception that no issue is off limits within his Coach’s Corner purview), mounted his social-conservative horse and ventured into what some believe was uncharted waters and meddled in immigration matters, people got their hackles up when he opined, “You people … that come here, whatever it is, 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…”
For the record, Don Cherry, many of those “you people” milk-and-honey suckers have relatives who “paid the price too.” I knew some of them, know some of their children, and they wear poppies too when Remembrance season comes around.
When the story broke Monday morning, it was akin to an ol’ time Montreal-Boston hockey game in the media, with forces arrayed in support of and against Don Cherry’s “loaded” remarks, especially the “you people” term which (some) immigrants and non-immigrants alike regard as anti-immigrant…
When I heard about the incident all I could think was “there goes Don Cherry again” speaking his mind.
And questions like how does he know the “you people” in question are not Canadian-born. Was he doing a survey? Did he base his statement on the colours/racial/cultural origins of those “you people?” Maybe, maybe not.
But given the current socio-political climate surrounding the issue of immigration, Cherry’s comments were akin to pouring gasoline on fire, so the heated reaction of supporters and detractors was inevitable, but he was unflappable, initially saying he wouldn’t apologize for his statement.
(I always suspected that Cherry and the Grapes person and persona had a latent anti-many things streak. The “you people” verbal firestorm is confirmation. He sounds too much like a certain politician we “you people” and all people who’s currently been lit up by media lights have come to know very well.)
Thing is, not every nonwhite person in Canada is an immigrant. Aside from Canada’s First Nations peoples, many nonwhites across the human spectrum have roots firmly planted in Canada. And while white people easily blend into the Canadian ‘human-scape’ not all of them are native to Canada, but they do not need to respond to that proverbial ‘where are you from question.’
“You people” must be people of colour, “racialized people” as is commonly and regularly heard in media these days.
So I don’t think Don Cherry’s “you people” quip was, or will ever be, referring to them… Never.
So when late Monday afternoon someone mentioned that Don Cherry “just got fired” all I said was: are you sure? Just because it always seemed that the bombastic Cherry was an untouchable that no employer could ever grow the hockey pucks and balls to fire.
To which he commented, “I could’ve stayed on if I wanted to and knuckled under, and turned into a wimp, but that’s not my style,” he said in an interview.
“You make one little comment like ‘you people’ and you know how it picks up,” he said. “It could have been anybody. It could have been the Irish, it could have been Scots, it could have been English.”
I don’t think so. They, as a former Prime Minister, implied are “Old Stock Canadians.”
“I still feel that everybody in this country that likes our way of life — these beautiful people gave their lives in their 20s and in their teens for our way of life — they should wear a poppy. If that’s offensive, then there’s nothing I can do about it.”
There, no apology from Cherry.
He’s not dead, just fired.
So, his octogenarian status notwithstanding, look for the hockey persona and celebrity to resurface in some capacity, somewhere in the media, no doubt visually colourful and opinionated as ever.