To see Don Cherry’s name trending on social media on a Sunday morning is to know the longtime hockey commentator said something controversial yet again during “Hockey Night in Canada.”
Cherry, 85, used his platform during “Coach’s Corner” on Saturday night to lambaste people who don’t wear poppies for Remembrance Day, seemingly zeroing in on immigrants.
“You know, I was talking to a veteran, I said ‘I’m not going to run the poppy thing anymore,’” Cherry began, referencing his annual Remembrance Day segment. “Because what’s the sense? I live in Mississauga, nobody wears ... uh, very few people wear a poppy.”
He went on to claim that “nobody” in downtown Toronto wears poppies.
“Now you go to the small cities, and you know, the rows and rows ... you people love ... they 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.”
You can watch a clip of the video below (and click here to see the full version via CBC):
The rant ran before the show played Cherry’s Remembrance Day video, where he visits a cemetery in France to honour Canadian soldiers who fought in the First World War.
Sportsnet has removed the segment from its YouTube channel, and send out a tweet Sunday morning calling the remarks “discriminatory” and not representative of the network’s values:
The PR arm of the NHL also put out a statement Sunday afternoon:
There was immediate backlash on social media and calls for Cherry’s firing. Others, including NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, detailed their own contributions to honouring our veterans and reminded him exactly what Canada looks like. The hashtag #youpeople also trended.
The account for Canadian Forces in the U.S. even seemed to throw some shade Cherry’s way, tweeting out pictures of veterans of colour, noting “They are Us.”
Paula Simons, an independent senator from Alberta, detailed the ceremony she attended this weekend and discussed her experiences with Remembrance Day in a Twitter thread, noting “many - indeed most - of the young Albertans who fought (and who died) in the First World War were immigrants or the children of immigrants. Others were Indigenous. All deserve to be honoured this week.”
Mississauga mayor Bonnie Crombie took to Twitter to respond to Cherry’s comments, which he made about the city’s immigrant population. Cherry himself is a Mississauga resident.
The anger wasn’t just directed at Cherry — Canadians were also wondering why co-host Ron MacLean simply sat and nodded after Cherry’s words. They pointed out it was a moment where he could have respectfully argued with his colleague. (UPDATE: MacLean did issue an apology on Sunday night before “Hometown Hockey,” calling Cherry’s words “discriminatory” and “flat-out wrong.” Read the full story here.)
HuffPost Canada reached out to CBC to comment, and received this response:
“As Rogers Sportsnet is the national rights holder for NHL Hockey in Canada, CBC has no purview over any editorial content (choice of commentators or what they say) on ‘Hockey Night in Canada.’”
UPDATE: This story has been updated to reflect CBC, Sportsnet and the NHL’s responses.