Instead, MacLean appeared solo on Saturday night, delivering an emotional speech addressing the incident that ultimately led to Cherry’s ouster from the program.
“You know the story, that Coach’s Corner is no more,” MacLean said at the beginning of the monologue, calling it the “end of an era.”
“We are all hurting. I have collapsed a hundred times this week, if not more,” MacLean said. “We’re all disappointed.”
MacLean said there were “steps that needed to be taken because of what had been said by Don” but that Cherry “didn’t want to do those steps.”
“So he made his choice and I made mine,” he said.
In this instance, MacLean said he had to choose principle over friendship.
“I thought a lot about falling on my sword, too, and then I thought, no, but if I do that I infer what happened was right somehow or that I’m going along to get along, or that I’m just going to sit silently by or be a bystander again in a situation and it just took the courage,” he said. “Don taught me to stand, so I had to have the courage of my convictions.”
MacLean ended the speech by saying Cherry is an “incredible person” who he loves “very much” and that the last talk about Coach’s Corner would be to honour what Cherry has meant to the game.
The speech has garnered mixed reactions online.
Some say MacLean didn’t go far enough in his condemnation of Cherry’s remarks, while others commended his integrity.
“@RonMacLeanHTH a shout of support for your monologue last night Ron. I am sure it wasn’t easy,” one tweet reads. “Your integrity as a person came through in every word.”
“Ron was put in an impossible situation,” Twitter user Milo McMahon wrote. “He’s being attacked by 50% of the population whatever he says. Last week he outlined why the comments were wrong. This week honoured a broadcasting legend & great friend. @RonMacLeanHTH doing more to bring this country together than anyone.”
“Ron- Last night’s heartfelt explanation of the circumstances surrounding Don’s dismissal must have been particularly hard given your long friendship with Don. I for one respect your comments and wish both you and Don the best in your lives ahead,” another tweet read.
Some viewers felt as though MacLean was abandoning Cherry, his good friend of several decades.
“Hockey players stick up for their teammates no matter what,” Twitter user Mark Churchill wrote. “When @CoachsCornerDC needed @RonMacLeanHTH he turned his back.”
“Don went down with the ship and true friends stick together,” Twitter user Noah Bell wrote. “You gave thumbs up and now do a 180? I would have walked with my friend.”
The comments that led to Cherry’s removal aired during the Nov. 9 segment of Coach’s Corner.
During the broadcast, Cherry suggested that immigrants don’t wear poppies, implying they don’t support Canada’s veterans.
“You people that come here, 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,” he said. “These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada, these guys paid the biggest price.”
Cherry’s comments were immediately met with criticism online, and, two days later, Sportsnet announced the longtime host would be stepping down from Coach’s Corner.
MacLean, too, came under fire over the segment, with many saying he sat idly by, allowing Cherry to make the comments.
A day later, MacLean issued an apology on Twitter, saying Cherry’s words were “hurtful and prejudiced” and that he is “truly upset” with himself for allowing it.
In an interview with Global News earlier this week, Cherry said he was disappointed by MacLean’s apology, but that the two remain friends.
During the interview, Cherry did not apologize for his remarks but said if he could do it again he would choose different words.
In a tweet posted Saturday afternoon, Cherry thanked those who have offered their support over the past week.
“It will take weeks to personally get back to everyone, so I am again, thanking you all now,” he wrote. “God Bless you all for your support.”
Sportsnet communications director Andrew Garas told The Canadian Press the network is now “taking the time to explore new formats for the first intermission.”
-With files from Maryam Shah