Well, well, Hockey Night in Canada’s Don Cherry has put his foot in it again.
Or, more accurately, his mouth. On Saturday night, during the first intermission of the Blackhawks/Leafs game, Cherry was, as usual, plying his trade on Coach’s Corner. And, in a particularly passionate moment, Cherry swore. He said one of the magic seven words that comedian George Carlin said were no-nos. Frankly, it was a shocking moment. One that proves that CBC, when they put a seven-second delay on Cherry years ago, was right to do it.
So we’re all clear, here’s exactly what Cherry said. He was talking about icing in the NHL, as we were being shown examples of problems that can occur during the race for the puck. Cherry began, “I’m gonna put this in the collection. That’s the whole deal. Nice little deke. And watch this here one. Here’s another one goin’ here. Watch the guy! Watch this guy knock his feet out from under him.”
Then host Ron MacLean interjected by clarifying, “Ville Leino”, to help the fans at home identify the player involved. Cherry continued, “Look at this…look…look…look. Knocked his feet out from under him on an icing. What a chickens**t.” Except Cherry said the whole word, without the stars. Cherry then carried on with a little more description, and then Coach’s Corner ended rather quickly – without one of MacLean’s signature ridiculous puns.
Now, let’s get a few things straight. Viewers hearing “s**” on the air is more and more common. Athletes say it. Coaches say it. Academy Award-winning supporting actresses say worse that that, don’t they Melissa Leo? But those are always comments from a very emotional person in the heat of a moment. That’s not what Don Cherry did. He is the award-winning, internationally-known co-host of a television segment. It is not appropriate for him to say that word on Canada’s national network. Period.
As the second intermission began, no mention was made of Cherry’s ugly word. HNIC blew its first opportunity to make things right. On twitter, it was pointed out to me that words like that have been used on British television for decades. That’s right. And, on British television and newspaper, topless women are not out of place. They are in Canada. That would not be acceptable and neither is Cherry’s verbiage.
I produced HNIC for five years. I have been involved in hundreds of live shows. One time, I had a hockey play-by-play man welcome fans to our broadcast by saying, “Happy Good Friday, everybody.” To many people of the Roman Catholic faith, that was an extremely offensive comment. BB (I’ll use his initials) said it very innocently. He did not know its implications. He felt very badly about it once the gravity was revealed to him (yes, I had that task).
My guess is that Don Cherry couldn’t care less about what he said tonight. And that, right there, is a big part of the problem. If I had been producing tonight’s show, I would have had Cherry apologize, on the air, for his misstep. And I would have had him do it quickly. So far, the way CBC and HNIC have dealt with Cherry’s faux pas has been disappointing to say the least.
ED NOTE: As per usual, CBC Sports has posted Cherry’s “Coach’s Corner” segment, from Saturday night, on its website. As you can see, about seven minutes into the item, Cherry’s profane audio has been wiped. See? CBC knows it’s wrong. We all do.