For years and years watching “Hockey Night in Canada” on CBC on Saturday nights was about as Canadian as winter. You looked forward to it, it had roots. Your father watched it, his father would listen to it on the radio, and so on and so forth. You always knew Saturday night meant that much more to you the hockey viewer than your normal Wednesday night. It had a certain feel to it and it couldn’t be matched any other day of the week.
Those days are gone, or at least very gradually fading away. Mainly because since the new owners of “Hockey Night in Canada” – Rogers Sportsnet – are trying to re-invent their own feel to it. First thing was removing Ron MacLean as the host of HNIC and replacing him with George Stroumboulopoulos. MacLean was “home” for many who watched HNIC. He was more than just Don Cherry’s sidekick, he hosted the most important event in Canada on a weekly basis for almost 30 years. He was a safe pick, like macaroni and cheese. They wanted to bring in a more “hip” hockey host I suppose, and while I am only 34 years old I realize that I am no longer part of the demographic that they want to impress anymore on television.
Well, it isn’t so bad, MacLean is still there for the next 4 years under contract dong Coach’s Corner with Cherry right? Yes, but………….I don’t know what Rogers is trying to do with Coach’s Corner either. Cherry’s time just recently got scaled back to about 5 minutes from what it used to be around 8 minutes. He has less air time and while he as well has a 4 year contract I am not sure if Rogers would even be bothered if the 80 year old icon can last that long. Why do I say this? It is simple. For over 30 years Cherry – the conservative – gave heart attacks to the more politically correct and left-leaning CBC with his Coach’s Corner segments. I can’t even count how many times in the media that people were sure that “this time he’s gone too far” and it bound to be fired for his comments. Give the CBC credit though, because they at least knew what the people want and let Cherry do his thing.
See, Cherry appeals to everything the media doesn’t. No one can relate to the middle-class quite like Mr. Cherry. He has the best rags-to-riches story this side of Walt Disney and he appeals to the average hockey fan more than any analyst could ever dream. He is your “everyday” man. He still lives in a rather modest home despite almost certainly being able to live larger. He is a patriot, a proud Canadian and even some of the things he supports are what make our country great. Things like not crying wolf, sticking up for people (or your teammates), playing through pain, staying loyal and honest. Not being phony. You can call Mr. Cherry a lot of things but even his harshest critic has to admit he does stand up for some good qualities in humanity and he wants them to be infiltrated in the game of hockey.
This is what drew me to Cherry as a young boy. He was loud, he was bombastic but he was direct. The one thing Saturday nights still have is Don Cherry. In fact in an age of digital cable and owning certain sports packages that come with it and enable you to watch any game on any given night the only thing unique about Saturday night anymore is Cherry and MacLean. We know for sure the Maple Leafs won’t give us anymore reason to watch them but Rogers is dropping the ball here because trying to stifle Cherry is the worst thing they can do. People care about what he has to say, even his critics care about what he says. Fans like myself specifically tune in to hear him and for a legend like Cherry 5 minutes is hardly enough. They have the most famous person in Canada and he’s apparently being phased out, which if it is true, is a mistake.
Let me tell you why. Here is a quick story about something the mainstream media wouldn’t bother covering. When my wife and I started having children we had our son, Jude, first. In February 2014 our daughter Rose was born. If you can connect the dots and see the Cherry connection, then you’re right. Rose Cherry I always thought was a lovely woman of course best known as Mrs. Don Cherry until she passed away in 1997. She was in commercials with Don and he spoke very well of her. While I never met her, she always seemed like a sweet lady to me and since I am an avid Don Cherry fan I convinced my wife (who is also a hockey fan) that if we had a daughter we name her Rose (don’t worry, we did not ignore our own family, she has both of her grandmother’s names as middle names). Of course we had to like the name as well, and we do because it is pretty, but for starters the initial reason was because of Mr. Cherry who I grew up watching and despite only meeting him once in my life, I feel like I know him.
So there you go, and can anybody say that this isn’t a person who has tremendous impact on this country and the hockey world? Because of reasons like this I believe that a Canadian icon should be cherished while we still have him kicking around. Rogers should be thankful.
Tags: canada, CBC, children, Coach Corner, Don Cherry, family, George Stroumboulopoulos, HNIC, home, Maple Leafs, new, something, Walt Disney, young