In the first intermission to air on Hockey Night in Canada since Don Cherry’s dismissal, host Ron MacLean addressed viewers alone for almost five minutes, saying, “we are all hurting.”
“You know the story, that Coach’s Corner is no more,” he said at the beginning of his monologue.
“I have collapsed a hundred times this week, if not more,” MacLean continued. “We’re all disappointed.”
He says he has spent time “reflecting.”
“I’ve sat all week long reflecting, listening to you, and I’ve heard you — I mean you the viewer,” he said.
MacLean touched upon his friendship with Cherry, saying he tried to call his 85-year-old former co-host on Saturday morning “when we normally talk,” but didn’t get through.
MacLean also apologized for not returning phone calls from journalists.
“I should say sorry to all the journalists who called this week and I didn’t return calls,” he said. “I know you understand why.”
He discussed the Nov. 9 Coach’s Corner segment in which Cherry appeared to say newcomers to Canada don’t wear poppies, implying they don’t support veterans — comments that led to Sportsnet firing Cherry two days later.
“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 televised segment.
“These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada, these guys paid the biggest price.”
Sportsnet said he “made divisive remarks that do not represent our values or what we stand for.”
MacLean issued an apology the day after Cherry’s comments, saying he wished he had handled it differently.
On Saturday night, he spoke of choosing “principle over friendship.”
“There were steps that needed to be taken because of what had been said by Don and he didn’t want to do those steps,” MacLean said. “So he made his choice and I made mine.”
Before the hockey game kicked off, MacLean had told viewers he planned to address Cherry’s departure during the first intermission.
MacLean opened Saturday’s show by saying there were “obviously mixed emotions” ahead of the broadcast, calling it “the end of an era.”
The first intermission featured the 2019 Hockey Hall of Fame inductees, who are set for a Monday induction ceremony.
On Friday, Sportsnet said it is considering new directions for the long-running segment.
“We’re taking the time to explore new formats for the first intermission,” Sportsnet communications director Andrew Garas told The Canadian Press.
In an interview earlier this week, Cherry didn’t apologize for his comments but said he would have chosen different words if he could do it again.
Earlier on Saturday, Cherry addressed the events of the past week by thanking his supporters.
“Again, I want to thank everyone who has called emailed, dropped by the house this past week. It will take weeks to personally get back to everyone, so I am again, thanking you all now,” he tweeted.
At times MacLean addressed Cherry personally during Saturday night’s solo segment, saying “Here I am, sort of standing up and taking this position. But that doesn’t mean anything in terms of my respect for you or my judgment of you.”
He ended the segment with: “I love you very much and we honour you tonight in this last talk about Coach’s Corner.”
— With files by Meghan Collie, The Canadian Press