Sports: 'A nationalistic, chauvinistic, narcissistic, toxic man': How Don Cherry's punching bags view him now - - PressFrom - Canada
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Sports 'A nationalistic, chauvinistic, narcissistic, toxic man': How Don Cherry's punching bags view him now

16:15  13 november  2019
16:15  13 november  2019 Source:   nationalpost.com

Online backlash against Don Cherry for comments on immigrants and Remembrance Day

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Stu Grimson wearing a suit and tie: Former NHL enforcer Stu Grimson in 2010. Grimson says of Don Cherry, © Nick Brancaccio/Postmedia/File Former NHL enforcer Stu Grimson in 2010. Grimson says of Don Cherry,

What really bothers Alpo Suhonen , after all these years, is how little Don Cherry seemed to actually know about the game. “He knew fighting and he knew checking, but he didn’t know hockey,” Suhonen, a legendary European coach, said Tuesday. “He didn’t have any idea about skills or tactics or anything like that.”

Thirty years ago, when Cherry first teed off on Suhonen , the Finnish legend had no idea who Cherry was. Suhonen was newly arrived in Canada at the time. He was coaching the Winnipeg Jets farm team in Moncton, N.B., one of the first European coaches to ever hold a role at that level in North American hockey.

Sportsnet apologizes for Don Cherry's anti-immigrant comments

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Alpo Suhonen wearing a suit and tie:  Alpo Suhonen in 1999, when he was assistant coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs.© Jim McIsaac/Getty Images Alpo Suhonen in 1999, when he was assistant coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

He hadn’t been there much more than a month when Cherry appeared on TV, this loud man in a loud suit, comparing him to something an animal might eat. “Why did they bring a Finn over to coach Moncton?” Cherry said, according to reports at the time. “Wasn’t a Canadian good enough? … I don’t wish him well in Moncton. What’s his name, Alpo? Sounds like dog food to me.”

At first, Suhonen was baffled. “I didn’t really find it funny,” he said. He didn’t know Cherry. He didn’t know anything about him or why he might wish him ill. “Then, later, I got to know him more,” Suhonen said this week. “I found him to be a nationalistic, chauvinistic, narcissistic, toxic man. … I know a lot of Canadians love his style, but his opinions about Europeans and their hockey, and the style he’s speaking, I find it very narrow-minded.”

Canucks' Horvat: Cherry's comments have 'no place' in hockey

  Canucks' Horvat: Cherry's comments have 'no place' in hockey Vancouver Canucks captain Bo Horvat agrees with Sportsnet's decision to fire Don Cherry after the longtime host of "Coach's Corner" went on a divisive rant about immigrants not wearing poppies during his most recent segment on Saturday. "He's been in the game for a long time and he's been around, but at the same time hockey's supposed to bring people together and there's no place for stuff like that," Horvat said, according to CBC's Eva"He's been in the game for a long time and he's been around, but at the same time hockey's supposed to bring people together and there's no place for stuff like that," Horvat said, according to CBC's Eva Uguen-Csenge.

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On Monday, after almost 40 years of controversy, Sportsnet, which has broadcast Hockey Night in Canada since 2014, fired Cherry , bringing an end to a career that defined hockey commentary for generations in this country. The move came less than two days after Cherry, who is 85, went on a rambling and seemingly bigoted rant about newcomers and Remembrance Day on Coach’s Corner. His comments, heated, parenthetical and confused, were typical Cherry. They weren’t out of line with dozens of other direct attacks and purple asides he has made over the years. But for Cherry, in 2019, they finally proved to be one rant too far.

For those in the hockey world who have been on the other side of Cherry’s ire, the news of his firing came as both a shock and an inevitability. “Don gets himself in trouble because he tends to go off half cocked and not really verify or sort through that which he intends to go public with,” said Stu ‘The Grim Reaper’ Grimson, a legendary hockey enforcer whom Cherry once called a “puke,” a “hypocrite” and a “turncoat” on TV. “I can’t help but feel that the game, at some point, a while ago, passed him by.”

Nazem Kadri Thinks People Took Don Cherry’s Comments ‘Out Of Context’

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Don Cherry smiling for the camera:  Don Cherry in September 2010.© Pat McGrath/Postmedia/File Don Cherry in September 2010.

Grimson, who spent 13 years in the NHL, devoted an entire chapter of his memoir “The Grim Reaper” to his back and forth battle with Cherry. On the season opener of Hockey Night in Canada in 2011, Cherry built himself into one of his trademark explosions about retired fighters who had turned against fighting in the NHL. Citing Grimson and two others, he said “(They say,) ‘Oh, the reason that they’re drinking, (taking) drugs, and (becoming) alcoholics is because they’re fighting,” according to Grimson’s book. “You guys were fighters, and now you don’t want guys to make the same living you did!”

The problem was that Grimson and the others had never said any such thing. In fact, Grimson still thinks fighting has a place in hockey. What’s more, he rarely, if ever, drinks. So, through his lawyer, he demanded an apology and threatened to sue . Eventually, Cherry backed down. He apologized on air, but he never personally reached out to Grimson. He did everything through his lawyer.

“I suppose the thing that bothered me most was the way Cherry had abused his pulpit and the impact that people like him are having on the public discourse today,” Grimson, who is now a lawyer and hockey commentator in Nashville, wrote in his book. “You want to disagree with someone? By all means. But can you please do it with just a little civility?”

Small group of Cherry supporters protest his firing outside Rogers headquarters

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Not everyone who has been part of a group targeted by Cherry on air dislikes him today. Georges Laraque, a longtime NHL enforcer, is both a French Canadian and a second-generation immigrant to Canada. He thinks Cherry doesn’t get enough credit among other Quebecers for, among other things, pushing the NHL to bring back the Quebec Nordiques. “There’s so many things he’s done (for French Canadians),” Laraque said. “But no one ever talks (about that).”

Georges Laraque holding a baseball bat:  Georges Laraque: “What happened with (Cherry) happens a lot with the older generation who haven’t adjusted the way they talk.”© Postmedia/File Georges Laraque: “What happened with (Cherry) happens a lot with the older generation who haven’t adjusted the way they talk.”

No matter what Cherry said Saturday, Laraque does not believe he is a bigot. “The comments that he said were wrong. And I understand why they had to fire him,” Laraque said. “I wish he didn’t say it like that. But he is not a racist person.” Instead, Laraque thinks Cherry is simply a product of his time. “In Canada, liberty of expression has changed a lot. Now in society we have to be really careful about the things we say,” he said. “What happened with (Cherry) happens a lot with the older generation who haven’t adjusted the way they talk.”

For decades after Cherry’s verbal assault, Suhonen continued to work in professional hockey, in both Europe and North America. He now lives in his native Finland, where he recently produced a play about a Finnish hockey star living with the after affects of concussions suffered on the ice. Though they worked in the same building for two years, from 1998-2000, Suhonen said Cherry never spoke to him about what he said on air. He certainly never apologized. “No, no, no, no, no,” Suhonen said when asked about it Tuesday. He didn’t apologize then, and he wouldn’t apologize now, not for what he said Saturday, not even if it might have saved his job. That was Don Cherry. He stood by what he said, even if, as with Suhonen, he wouldn’t say it to your face.

• Email: rwarnica@nationalpost.com | Twitter: richardwarnica

Ron MacLean says he doesn't believe former co-host Don Cherry is racist .
EDMONTON — Days after addressing Don Cherry's dismissal during a "Hockey Night in Canada" broadcast, sports broadcaster Ron MacLean says he doesn't believe his former co-host is a racist. MacLean, the long-time co-host of "Coach's Corner" with Cherry, is in Edmonton to receive an honorary doctor of laws degree at the University of Alberta. Before receiving the degree, MacLean told reporters it's been a difficult time. Sportsnet fired Cherry onMacLean, the long-time co-host of "Coach's Corner" with Cherry, is in Edmonton to receive an honorary doctor of laws degree at the University of Alberta.

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