CBC distances itself from Don Cherry’s pro-fighting comments

 

 
 
 
 
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Photograph by: PAT McGRATH, THE OTTAWA CITIZEN

The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. on Saturday took the unusual step of clarifying its position on issues Don Cherry addressed in a controversial Coach’s Corner rant earlier in the week.

The former Boston Bruins coach, during an intermission on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada broadcast on Thursday, used strong language to criticize some former NHL tough guys. In the segment, Cherry identified a handful of former NHL pugilists he says are now against fighting in hockey because of the recent off-ice deaths of enforcers Wade Belak, Rick Rypien and Derek Boogaard.

“Recent comments made by Don Cherry on Hockey Night in Canada’s Coach’s Corner regarding headshots and fighting in professional hockey have been the subject of considerable debate,” Kirstine Stewart, CBC’s executive vice-president of English services, said in the statement. “I wish to clarify, in no uncertain terms, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.’s position on this issue.

“Don’s comments reflect his own opinion. While we support his right to voice that opinion, we do not share his position. Player safety is a top priority for CBC, and we support the initiatives of the NHL and others in keeping players safe on and off the ice.”

Between periods of Thursday’s game between the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs, Cherry took aim at the recent surge in anti-fighting sentiment.

“You people that are against fighting, you should be ashamed of yourselves,” he said.

In the segment, Cherry referred to the retired players as “pukes” and “hypocrites” for being against fighting in hockey, even though some of them claim they never even made such views public.

“The ones that I am really disgusted with, and I hate to say this when the kids are listening . . . are the bunch of pukes that fought before: Stu Grimson, Chris Nilan and Jim Thomson. (They say) ‘Oh, the reason that they’re drinking, (taking) drugs and alcoholics is because they fight.’ You turncoats. You hypocrites,” Cherry said.

Cherry also lamented the possibility of the NHL cracking down on hits to the head, given the prominence of recent concussion-related injuries, including the one that has sidelined superstar Sidney Crosby since the middle of last season.

Stewart added that she had spoken with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and made clear the network’s position on such issues.

CBC spokesman Chuck Thompson said there have been other occasions over the years when the network voiced a position in relation to something Cherry said on Coach’s Corner.

“It’s obvious that Don’s opinion on this particular subject was controversial, and understandably it’s become part of the media dialogue and conversations across the country with hockey fans from coast to coast around the whole issue of violence in hockey,” Thompson said.

“We just wanted to ensure that we clarified the CBC’s position on player safety.”

Thompson added that it’s not uncommon for CBC executives to consult with the NHL on “many aspects of what we do,” calling the league “a very important partner of the CBC.”

He added that Cherry’s employment with CBC is not at risk, reiterating Stewart’s comment supporting his right to voice his opinion.

dabma@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/derekabma

 
 
 
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Photograph by: PAT McGRATH, THE OTTAWA CITIZEN

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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