Controversial Canadian hockey pundit Don Cherry is out at Hockey Night in Canada after a rant Saturday night in which he claimed, without evidence, that new Canadians don’t wear poppies.
His employer, Sportsnet, condemned the rant as “discriminatory” and “offensive” the next day but it wasn’t until Monday that the network announced that Cherry was stepping down from the show.
That decision came after a massive groundswell of condemnation against Cherry, which became so intense that the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council issued a statement on its website saying its technical system could no longer keep up with the flood of complaints from the public.
But it was far from the first time Cherry has made remarks deemed inappropriate or offensive.
Here’s what you need to know.
Cherry was born in Kingston, Ont., on Feb. 5, 1934.
His full name is Donald Stewart Cherry but it was under the nickname that he became a household name across the country for his commentary and opinions.
He got his start in minor league hockey in 1954 playing for the Hershey Bears and stayed with them over 16 seasons and was called up to the National Hockey League for a single game in 1955.
Cherry quit hockey in 1969 before returning briefly as a player in 1971 and then as a coach in 1972.
He worked for the Boston Bruins, followed by the Colorado Rockies — it was from this latter position that he was fired and then left the National Hockey League for good in 1980.
That same year, he started appearing on a segment called Coach’s Corner on Hockey Night in Canada.
From there, his reach into the living rooms and community centres of Canada made him a household name to hockey fans and the broader society itself.
But it has been that same reach and the remarks he’s made on the program that have repeatedly sparked controversy for Cherry.
WHAT HAS CHERRY SAID IN THE PAST
The most recent example would be this past weekend, when Cherry sparked nationwide outrage over remarks he made on Coach’s Corner about poppies, suggesting newcomers did not wear them.
“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 in the Nov. 9 segment that was widely condemned. “These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada, these guys paid the biggest price.”
In 2018, during a Coach’s Corner segment, Cherry called people who believe in climate change “cuckaloos.” In the segment, Cherry questioned MacLean about whether he and his “left-wing pinko friends” could explain higher temperatures in the face of cold weather. When his co-host tried to avoid the question, Cherry plowed on: “I’m just asking you, the cuckaloos are always saying there are warming trends — we’re freezing to death.”
In 2015, Cherry made the news for a controversial remark about MacLean eating a seal meat burger. According to a CBC News story, MacLean had eaten a seal meat burger in Newfoundland. Cherry’s response was to joke that his co-host had consumed a “little baby seal:” “What are you, a savage, a barbarian?”
In this instance, Cherry wound up addressing his comments on Twitter, saying at the time that he had “hurt some people’s feelings that I like and admire.”
In 2013, during yet another Coach’s Corner segment, Cherry made headlines for saying women don’t belong in men’s locker rooms.
In the April 2013 segment, Cherry was discussing a controversy around a hockey player who was facing criticism for what some called a sexist response to a female reporter who asked the player a question after a game.
Cherry then said he thought the female reporter should not have been in the men’s dressing room.
“I don’t believe women should be in the male dressing room,” he said at the time, causing co-host Ron MacLean to grimace.
Earlier the same year, in March 2013, Cherry took to his Twitter account to express frustration with a court verdict that sent a man who killed a Toronto police officer with a snowplow to a psychiatric hospital instead of prison.
Cherry had said that he couldn’t believe the man was found not criminally responsible for the officer’s death. The verdict, though, said that the man would be assessed and treated at a psychiatric facility, and would only be released if a review board determined he was not a significant threat to the public.
Cherry also used his Twitter account in January 2013 to take aim at Canadian aid sent to Haiti, which had experienced an earthquake.
“You know, I am one of those guys, like most people in Canada, we like to help the countries all over the world. But sometimes it makes you wonder,” he tweeted at the time. “Maybe it’s just me. But Canada gave Haiti 49.5 million dollars last year. Are we nuts?”
In 2004, Cherry made comments about the Iraq war that resulted in complaints to the CBC ombudsman’s office. He and MacLean were discussing the Iraq war on a Coach’s Corner segment, with Cherry launching into a pro-U.S. rant and criticizing the Canadian government for a “lack of support to our American friends.”
“I hate to see them go it alone. We have a country that comes to our rescue, and we’re just riding their coattails,” Cherry said at the time, according to a CBC article.
In 1998, Cherry slammed Quebecers as “whiners,” according to a Toronto Star article from 2013 that rounded up his most controversial moments.
Sports journalist Bruce Dowbiggin said that for many people, the only surprise is that “it’s taken this long.”
“The surprise is mostly that finally he said something serious enough that a broadcaster would want to get rid of him,” Dowbiggin told Global News.
“He had nine lives,” he said of Cherry’s history, which was full of making controversial remarks yet still managing to keep his job. “That part of it has always been a bit of a mystery to us in the business, how he escaped.”
Hockey historian Liam Maguire said Cherry’s latest controversy was “by far the worst.”
“I mean, we just went through arguably the most divisive election in the country’s history,” he said.
Cherry has made headlines for decades for his comments, but Maguire said the internet was a “game-changer.”
“Now you have literally in the blink of an eye millions of Canadians who are able to weigh in on this,” he said.
Both Maguire and Dowbiggin pointed out money played a role in the longevity of Cherry’s career.
“The fact of the matter is he made a ton of money for CBC,” Dowbiggin said. “He made a ton of money for Hockey Night in Canada, and for Rogers while he’s been there, he’s always been fairly profitable for them.”
“He was an absolute cash cow, there was always a way somehow to skate around it,” Maguire said.
With files by The Canadian Press, Global News staff