Should Don Cherry have been fired?
That is the question on the minds of millions of Canadians after the 85-year-old hockey legend was dismissed by Sportsnet Monday morning following comments he made on his Hockey Night on Canada Coach’s Corner segment Saturday night.
Cherry, who has been the face of Coach’s Corner since its inception on Hockey Night in Canada in 1982, singled out new immigrants in Toronto and Mississauga, Ont., where he lives, for not honouring Canada's veterans and fallen soldiers.
"You people ... 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," Cherry said Saturday night. "These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada, these guys paid the biggest price."
His comments set off a firestorm on Sunday on-line with as many people in favour of the comments and supporting Cherry as those against.
Sportsnet issued an apology Sunday morning, while Coach’s Corner host Ron MacLean, who has sat beside Cherry for the segment since 1986, issued his own apology to viewers prior to Sunday night’s Hometown Hockey game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Chicago Blackhawks.
On Monday, the Optimist received photos of several posters that were spotted in three areas in Ladner with Cherry’s face on the poster and a simple heading saying ‘Not Wanted.’
"I know what I said and I meant it. Still do. Everybody in Canada should wear a poppy to honour our fallen soldiers," Cherry told The Canadian Press, saying Sportsnet fired him.
Cherry, however, denies he was singling out visible minorities.
"I did not say minorities, I did not say immigrants. If you watch 'Coach's Corner,' I did not say that. I said 'everybody.' And I said 'you people,'" Cherry said. "Irish, Scotch, anybody that's newcomers to Canada, and they should wear a poppy to honour our dead from the past, whether they're Scotch or Irish or English, or where they come from.
Cherry added that he could have stayed on "if I had turned into a tame robot who nobody would recognize."
"I can't do that after 38 years," he said.
Known for his outlandish suits and thumbs-up gesture, Cherry was liable to say anything during the popular first-intermission segment. Over the years, he occasionally weighed in with thoughts on off-ice topics that sometimes landed him in hot water.
— with files from Canadian Press