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  • Writer's pictureMarc Lalonde

Don Cherry had to go

Don Cherry's divisive comments were far from the first time he has uttered ignorant and hateful things, unfortunately

It was the straw that broke the camel’s back

Maybe it should have been when he insulted Europeans and Quebec-born players for having the temerity to protect their faces from errant sticks and potentially lethal pucks;

Maybe it should have been when he ripped into Russian players that time. Or that other time he did it.

Or when he criticized players who have suffered concussions. Or even when he criticized the people whose job it was to remove them hockey players from hockey games should they be considered to have suffered brain trauma.

It was a move too long coming, but when Don Cherry wagged his finger at immigrants, blaming them for a drop in poppies being worn in public to commemorate Remembrance Day, saying "you people" want to enjoy Canada's "milk and honey," meaning the freedoms that fallen soldiers fought and died for, without properly respecting them enough to wear a poppy on their coat lapels.

Not only was it wrong, and an inaccurate statement, it came off not as a pugilistic bully lording over newcomers like some sort of dark lord of hockey commentary but the rantings of an out-of-touch senior who likely saw someone walking down the street in his Toronto-area home neighbourhood and immediately ascribed that person's actions onto everyone who has ever immigrated to Canada.

This was 'old man shakes fist at cloud,' stuff. It's just the final straw that finally forced Cherry off television, a break that should have come in 2014 when Rogers took over the Hockey Night in Canada broadcasts where Cherry performed his past-its-date shtick that hasn't really changed much since the early days of his hockey huckster routine.

At 85, it's clear that Cherry had lost his fastball years ago and his firing Monday by Rogers was simply the natural progression in his inability to understand anything resembling reality. The Don Cherry rock 'em , sock 'em hockey videos of the 80s and 90s are now an archaic anachronism and watching them now is absolutely cringe-worthy knowing what we know about brain trauma and its horrifying aftereffects.

Rogers, naturally, and to their credit, divested themselves of Cherry on Monday, but his firing continues to resonate and divide Canadians.

Facebook supporters claim Cherry's rights to freedom of speech have been violated and that he was only standing up for the troops, to whom he had credibly given up many of has own holiday time ion order to being some joy into theirs.

First, yes, freedom to speak one's mind in Canada is protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but it protects private citizens from government reprisal against their speech, not the natural fallout from when you wander onto television and yell at immigrants and your employers say 'No, thanks.'

Second, it's not about poppies and Remembrance Day. I don't think a single person has suggested that we need to do less commemoration of fallen troops who sacrificed everything so Cherry might have a pulpit to dress in silly costumes and yell ignorant things.

In fact, it might go further toward honoring the troops if Canada would consider making Nov. 11 a statutory holiday with some significance. Many Remembrance Day ceremonies are held on the Sunday before Nov. 11, ensuring higher attendance and engagement, and the result hasn't been the dampening of enthusiasm -- rather, the opposite is, in fact, true, many observers have noted.

It was long past time to put Cherry and his past-its-due-date gimmick out to pasture. Maybe I'll even start watching Hockey Night in Canada intermissions again.

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