Don Cherry is an iconic Canadian figure. Co-host of Coach's Corner on Hockey Night in Canada, Don has sparked conversation in Canadian homes and communities regarding hockey for years. While causing many a debate, he has also become a unifying force among Canadians, providing dialogue even if it's just about his polarizing wardrobe choices. CBC's television special The Greatest Canadian listed Don as the seventh greatest Canadian, and he has rightfully earned that spot.
So if Don Cherry retired, who could step into the spotlight?
Rogers Media recently acquired broadcast rights to all NHL games in a 12-year, $5.2 million dollar deal. The CBC, and therefore Hockey Night in Canada, has brokered a four-year sublicensing agreement for English language hockey game. But the future of Coach's Corner is uncertain, and at Don's age of 79, are retirement parties in his future? If that's the case, it prompts the question: could anyone really replace Grapes? (Just in case you didn't know, that's his nickname.)
The Apple doesn't fall far from the tree
It would only make sense to look to younger, fellow Hockey Night in Canada broadcast team member P.J. Stock to step up in Cherry's absence. A retired NHL player, Stock played for the New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens, Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins. He has been an analyst for CBC's Hockey Night in Canada for six years. He combines his on-air charisma with NHL experience. But Stock still takes a lot of jabs from the other members of the show, and he may need a few more gray hairs before he could take on the big desk.
Could some of TSN's biggest personalities takeover?
Had Jay Onrait and his cuddly co-host Dan O'Toole not decamped to Fox Sports 1 earlier this year, the team could have been a uniquely Canadian answer to Don Cherry. Onrait has the hearts of SportsCentre's audience and would likely be welcomed back by Canadian hockey fans with open arms (even if it was into the arms of Rogers Media). And of course Dan O'Toole would be a great Ron MacLean-like sidekick. But would this goofy guy be able to take on the tough issues? Only time will tell...
Bob McKenzie, "The TSN Hockey Insider" has over 625,000 Twitter followers. Of all hockey journalists, he likely has the most insider knowledge and fans turn to his Twitter feed before official announcements for trade rumours and news. He has been covering hockey for 30 years and is a powerful name in Canadian broadcasting. On the other hand, McKenzie is so firmly ensconced in the TSN family, would he really leave?
Keeping it in the (Rogers) Family
With Rogers' acquiring broadcast rights, it is inevitable that Rogers' personalities will have the most exposure to Canadian hockey fans nationwide. Will one of their existing personalities grow in popularity?
Popular Sportsnet personality Nick Kypreos, like P.J. Stock, was a former player and uses that experience and knowledge to his benefit as a broadcaster. He is not afraid to call players out on mistakes and has even been criticized as being too harsh on young players. He is not afraid to debate and argue with fellow analysts. He is a man who will not back down from his opinion, however does he have the widespread likeability factor to ignite discussion amongst Canadians?
And last, but certainly not least there is Bob McCown, the radio personality from Prime Time Sports on The Fan 590, a Rogers' station. He was recently awarded with the Career Achievement Award at the 18th Sports Media Canada Achievement Awards. A strongly opinionated person, McCown is not afraid to get into heated arguments with callers. His firm stance in his views combined with his colourful vocabulary could make him a unique character. However, he is considered brash by some listeners. Could Bob McCown make the transition into television and be greeted with the same following, or does he simply have a face for radio?
While no one could ever replace Don Cherry, the broadcasters mentioned above each have potential to rise as a unifying face and force in Canadian hockey. Cherry is a one-of-a kind broadcaster who has earned a spot in so many Canadians' homes and hearts. It won't be his shoes that need to be filled, but his ostentatious suits, and let's not forget the accolade of having an entire blog dedicated entirely to his wardrobe, to boot.
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