At a time when it seemed like everyone had turned their back on legendary National Hockey League analyst Don Cherry, one of the most respected names in the entire sport of hockey has now just stepped forward and put himself on the line to defend the Canadian icon.
Last week Cherry, the NHL's most infamous curmudgeon, created a firestorm of controversy with the comments he made during his weekly appearance on Hockey Night in Canada. During Cherry's regular segment on Coach's Corner the former NHL head coach blasted Canadians citizens who had failed to purchase a poppy to support the country's fallen heroes, but it was comments regarding Canadian immigrants that truly landed him in hot water.
"You people you 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," Cherry said during the controversial segment. "These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada, these guys paid the biggest price."
Of course we now know that these comments would eventually lead to the termination of Don Cherry and furthermore resulted in the long time NHL analyst being condemned by his employers at Rogers and Sportsnet, as well as by his long time friend Ron MacLean.
"I want to sincerely apologize to our viewers and Canadians," wrote MacLean on social media. "During last night's broadcast, Don made comments that were hurtful and prejudiced and I wish I had handled myself differently. It was a divisive moment and I am truly upset with myself for allowing it."
"I have worked with Don for 30 years, and we both love hockey. But last night, I know we failed you. I see hockey as part of what unites us. I have the honour of travelling across our country to celebrate Canada's game, and our diversity is one of our country's greatest strengths."
MacLean himself has come under fire for both agreeing with Cherry during the initial segment, as well as for turning his back on his friend after the fact. MacLean of course has his job and career to consider in this situation and is almost certainly towing the company line on this issue, and very few people have dared to speak out against both Sportsnet and Rogers on this topic. That however has just changed in a major way and I could see this leading to more voices speaking out on behalf of Cherry.
Bobby Orr, one of the National Hockey League's greatest living legends, has now spoken out about the treatment that Cherry has received at the hands of Sportsnet, and the former NHL megastar was not pulling any punches with his comments.
"I know Grapes better than anybody," Orr said as per CTV. "He's not a bigot and he's not a racist. This guy is the most generous, caring guy that I know. What they've done to him up there is disgraceful, it really is. It's a new world I guess. Freedom of speech doesn't matter."
Furthermore Orr made it clear that there were plenty of people in Boston expressing their support for Cherry and many more that had personally reached out to the former head coach of the Bruins.
"He's getting some nice calls from his friends here in Boston," Orr said. "He is getting some wonderful support. He's hurt, but he's going to be fine."
Orr's most poignant comments were reserved for the decision to fire Cherry on Remembrance Day, the holiday that Cherry was imploring Canadian citizens to recognize and celebrate.
“He got fired on Remembrance Day. That is just wrong,” said Orr as per the Toronto Sun.
“This whole thing is unbelievable. Don Cherry is a good man and to do this to him is disgusting.”