Don Cherry’s comments speak to the history of hockey and Canadian identity
Don Cherry’s role as national hockey oracle is over. After a three-decade-plus run as host of Coach’s Corner, a beloved 1st intermission segment on Canada’s most watched TV show, Sportsnet and the former NHL head coach are parting ways. This comes on the heels of Cherry’s impassioned Saturday night rant chastising Canadians, new and old, for not honoring Canada’s veterans by wearing symbolic poppies. It’s fair to say that Cherry’s choice of words, specifically “you people,” were bluntly delivered and any chance to clear up the confusion went by the wayside with Cherry doubling down on his intention and meaning.
Unlike the 2019 Canadian Federal election, Canadians are actually fired up about this. Those on all sides of the issue have flooded social media, radio call-in shows, and newspaper and web pages, covering all sides of the issue. If you don’t think hockey has a valuable role in dictating and projecting Canadian national identity, this is your lesson. You cannot find anybody in the country not discussing Cherry in one way or another. But what you haven’t seen is a historical understanding of why hockey matters so much, and specifically it’s relation to Canadian identity. It’s that story that I want to share, as I think it will help illuminate why Canadians of all stripes are burning up over Cherry once again.
“You people” were supposed to be Cherry’s last words but they weren’t.
Once again, cancel culture missed the mark.
Mainstream media still hasn’t gotten the memo that podcasting will eventually be their demise. If you got fired for something you said on a network twenty years ago you were pretty much out of options for reaching the public on a mass scale after that.
Twenty years ago, people weren’t getting fired for misspeaking or a controversial opinion so it wasn’t a big issue. These days, everybody on a network starts out on thin ice and there they stay. What is interesting, however, is that as the networks continue to tighten up their leashes the technology for an open and honest dialogue is expanding. Anybody can start a professional sounding podcast for no more than a couple hundred dollars. It’s a one time fee and you’re set for life.
So it’s no surprise that the canning of Cherry from Sportsnet won’t be the last time his fans will get to hear from him. The downside of Cherry’s new podcast is that there is no video to see him in his flambuoyant suits and it’s missing his once-loyal sidekick, Ron MacLean.
That being said, the podcast feels like you are in the living room with Grapes. So at a moment in time when the mainstream media would have you believe that Cherry is just a loud, obnoxious one-trick pony, listeners are actually now getting a calm, lucid and sentimental Don. He talks with his son and daughter on the podcast about all things hockey.
The first podcast saw Cherry briefly address the firing but he didn’t seem bitter about it, “when one door closes, another opens,” he said. Then it was back to hockey. Cherry shared an old interview between himself and the man of hockey folklore – Maurice “The Rocket” Richard.
In another episode, Cherry recounts his dog, Blue, getting into it with a skunk and having to wash out the stench with baking soda and hydrogen peroxide, then it was back to discussing hockey.
One can only suspect that Cherry, 85, is going to put more money into the podcast and get a small studio up and running. There’s no shortage of legendary players both past and present who would want to be guests on Grapevine 2.0.
If Ron MacLean remains a good boy perhaps Sportsnet will even let him go on as a guest one of these days. And why wouldn’t they? Grapevine 2.0 was the number one podcast in the country two weeks ago, beating out the Joe Rogan Experience. Rogan’s podcast averages approximately a billion downloads annually so it’s no small feat to top him in Canada, if only momentarily.
Grapevine 2.0 has remained in the top ten streamed podcasts in Canada since its inception. I guess some people still really like Cherry after all.
It began with Grapes but the end is uncertain. Don Cherry’s now infamous “You People” rant was the match that lit the fire.
The Social’s Jessica Allen took Cherry’s comments and ran regaling us with memories of her formative years and how those stories can be applied to all hockey players across the country and fans of the game alike.
Akim Aliu, a Nigerian-born NHL player, came out against former coach Bill Peters recently. Talking via social media about an incident where Peters used racial epithets a decade earlier while he was playing for the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs. Since the post, many other former players of Peters have come forward as well with stories of his unprofessional conduct and controversial coaching style. Peters stepped down Friday as coach of the Calgary Flames.
Daniel Carcillo is leading a twitter brigade against abuse within the organizations of Hockey Canada and the NHL. He has been encouraging other players to do the same and they haven’t wasted any time. Dozens of former players from the NHL, OHL, WHL and minor league have come forward with similar stories of abuse. The University of Lethbridge has had six female hockey players make a formal complaint with the University’s human resources department asking for their coach Michelle Janus to be fired for several instances of bullying, although the details remain unclear. So far the university has decided to keep Janus as Coach of the school team.
Several former players have come out against the Sutter family as well, including Brent, Brian, Darryl, Duane, Rich and Ron. The entire family all played at one time in the NHL before moving on to team management or becoming coaches themselves. One player has suggested that this has given the Sutter boys almost a Royal Family status amongst the NHL and Hockey Canada, and that has made them extremely powerful so no one has had their voice heard up to this point or dared to speak up. The Sutters have not yet made a comment on the (at this point) vague allegations.
The complaints against some individuals in the professional hockey world have ranged from sexual and physical abuse to hazing and underage drinking.
Rookie parties have come under fire as a haven for toxic behaviour. Carcillo posted a photo from an alleged rookie party where the rookies were forced to wear dresses and drink alcohol while some were still underage. The faces of the players have been blurred out, leaving only their beer toting, dress wearing bodies.
To me, the photo looks suspect. The erased faces could be to protect the identity of the players posing, it may also be to conceal any expressions of amusement, one can’t say for sure.
I played hockey until I was about twelve years old and then quit because that is about the time it all starts to get very serious. I can’t speak first hand about such experiences so it’s hard for me to determine whose side I’m on in all of this. I’m sure the incidents range from a tyrannical, abusive coaches to hypersensitive players upset about the typical masculine and jocular behaviour of jocks. My gut tells me both, and that many heads are about to roll, some that should and some that shouldn’t.
I just hope we won’t all lose our heads in the process and crucify the innocent.
‘Tis the season of the witch hunt and in the era of social media, the concept of dealing with things on a case by case basis seems to be a difficult task to ask of the average Twitter user, who instead make everything black and white.
Time will tell just what’s in store for the nation’s favourite past time.
Social justice has come for the NHL. And Ron MacLean, fresh off of throwing his broadcasting partner and better half Don Cherry under the bus, has bought in 100%.
During the intermission of Hockey Night in Canada this Saturday on Sportsnet, MacLean addressed his guests, Kwame Mason and Tara Slone:
“I said to Kwame, I don’t see you as black, I don’t see Tara as a woman. And then I realized, ‘There’s your white male privilege. You know what, Ron? You don’t have to see that because you don’t need to see that.'”
He then went on to apologize for not having enough people of colour pick the three stars on Hockey Night in Canada and for the structural racism and sexism of hockey. You can watch the clip here:
Of course, the ironic thing is that Ron MacLean’s original way of viewing Mason or Sloane was correct. He didn’t see Mason as a black man and he didn’t see Sloane as a woman. He saw them both as fellow human beings.
Now, he has been re-educated (so that he may keep his job) to only see them for the minority groups they represent. This is objectively more racist and sexist, but it’s the kind of racism and sexism that social justice demands. Ron MacLean is now safe.
The social panic sweeping over hockey started with the debacle of Don Cherry’s firing from Sportsnet for saying “you people” in reference to immigrants who don’t wear the poppy (an incident that he was willing to clarify and apologize for).
More recently, Calgary Flames head coach Bill Peters was fired for uttering the N-word to a player many years ago as an assistant coach for another team. Whether Peters should have been fired, fined, or otherwise sanctioned after his apology is a matter up for debate. Certainly, people have said and done worse and kept their jobs, but the trudge toward progress made any such nuanced discussion impossible.
Since these incidents, far-left Canadian pundits such as Jess Allen and Nora Loreto have claimed that hockey is inherently racist or white supremacist. Allen claimed that hockey players were “white boys” and “bullies” while Loreto proclaimed in a boastful tweet that hockey leads to “white supremacy and misogyny.”
Take note. This is how social justice movements always work. They take individual instances of inappropriateness or intolerance (or even something as mild as a misunderstanding) and they apply those instances to an entire culture and claim that the community must be fixed at any cost. Of course, this means consultants, specialists, diversity trainers, federal assistance and a whole lot of hand wringing.
It doesn’t seem to matter to these crusaders who want to clean the culture that Justin Trudeau, the prime minister of our hockey-loving country, has been the centre of racist incidents more times than he can even remember.
No reasonable person could say that Bill Peters was more racist than our prime minister. But you see, Trudeau’s past racism is different because he’s on the social justice team! He can lead the nation forward by helping us have these difficult conversations and recognizing. These big bad hockey coaches and players on the other hand, well, they must be punished and banished from the culture because of toxic masculinity and systemic hetero white something something.
We’ve already seen the panic hit social media, with former NHLer Daniel Carcillo attempting to create McCarthyite blacklists of other professional coaches based on rumours:
It’s only going to get worse. But before the entire hockey community drops their sticks in favour of pitchforks, I would like to suggest that the progressivist push to name, shame, and force every “community member” to grovel and pledge their allegiance to intersectionality is not the answer. If hockey continues down this path, it will lose fans and revenue.
Like any culture, hockey has its problems. But those problems are caused by individual human beings. If a coach, player, or fan is acting in a racist or sexist manner, then they should be held accountable as individuals. And matters such as these should be adjudicated between the parties who were actually involved in the behaviour.
The shift from individual responsibility to collective guilt is where things skate downhill real fast. Grievance Studies scholar James Lindsay spotted it right away and quite aptly quipped, “LOL RIP hockey”:
This will not end well. Whether it’s the world of music, comedy, film, or professional sports, social justice crusades lead to nothing but division. If the NHL continues to get woke, it will most definitely go broke.
Bill Peters has resigned as the head coach of the NHL’s Calgary Flames after former player, Akim Aliu, accused him on racism on social media, according to Sportsnet.
The Calgary Flames’s general manager, Brad Treliving, made these comments during a press conference. During this, he also stated that Geoff Ward would take over as the interim coach.
Aliu accused Peters on Twitter of directing a racial slur towards the player “several times” when they were both in the AHL. Peters was Aliu’s coach during his time at the Rockford IceHogs.
After Aliu’s tweets, Peter’s released an apology, although he did not direct it specifically to Aliu.