Jim Furlong: Rock’Em, Sock’Em, Fired!

I wasn’t really surprised that Don Cherry got himself fired. He self destructed on national television last Saturday night. As soon as I heard the words “you people” in his rant against low Armistice Day poppy sales I knew he was in trouble. “You people love, ya come here, whatever it is you love our way of life, love our milk and honey.” 

That is the exact quote. “You people” being immigrants to Canada. 

Absolutely outrageous

Don Cherry has been an important figure in Canadian hockey broadcasting for 40 years on Coaches Corner on Hockey Night in Canada, but he really has been a ticking time bomb. 

Over the years, he has said things that were absolutely outrageous on television but his employers, who understand right from wrong, also understand he was a very bankable commodity and decided to let him stay on the air where lesser men that weren’t driving revenue would be sacked in a jiffy. His employer waited 24 hours or so and then, I suspect, sensing the mood of the country, dumped him. 

One of the problems with Don Cherry is that the world around him has changed and he hasn’t. His “best before date” has gone. Fifteen years ago, he could talk about French players or European players with impunity about not being up to scratch in terms of heart and grit. 

You could get away with that then because it was a comment about hockey playing ability. This month Don Cherry’s thoughts on “you people” and buying a poppy were a different matter. In 2019 that kind of talk about “you people” gets you fired; as it should. 

Ridden out storms

Certainly, Don Cherry does know a lot about hockey, but when his thoughts and opinions stray in other directions it invites trouble. Me and a lot of Canadians were growing tired of ongoing rants about the Canadian military and other things completely unrelated to a Saturday night hockey game. Still, his television employers tolerated it. 

Another major factor in the whole thing is that there was no apology from him. He might have survived it if he immediately did a “mea culpa” but he didn’t. He doubled down. 

Here is a question for you. Did Don Cherry really understand the implications of what he said? I don’t think he did. He is 85 years of age and he isn’t about to change. He has spoken his mind and ridden out storms before and he probably thought this would blow over. 

The world around Don Cherry has very much changed. He comes from a different generation. 

From my very narrow point of view I understand something I don’t think Don could possibly understand and it is that the right to buy a poppy is part and parcel of the right not to buy a poppy. Lots of Canadians don’t buy poppies and they should; but when Don Cherry linked it to “you people” he crossed a line that couldn’t be uncrossed. It cost him his job on Hockey Night in Canada. That is fine with me.

NTV’s Jim Furlong can be reached by emailing: [email protected]

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