Don Cherry’s nearly four-decade tenure on “Coach’s Corner” came to an abrupt halt on Remembrance Day.
On Monday, Sportsnet fired the former NHL coach and TV personality following mass outcry over what many perceived to be offensive comments he made on Saturday’s “Hockey Night in Canada” broadcast.
“I have just learned I’ve been fired by Sportsnet for comments made on ‘Coach’s Corner’ Nov. 9,” Cherry, 85, told Toronto Sun‘s Joe Warmington in a phone interview on Monday.
The hockey commentator clarified that his comments were not racial or bigoted, but patriotic: “I know what I said and I meant it. Everybody in Canada should wear a poppy to honour our fallen soldiers.”
“To keep my job, I cannot be turned into a tamed robot,” added Cherry. “I would have liked to continue doing ‘Coach’s Corner’. The problem is if I have to watch everything I say, it isn’t ‘Coach’s Corner’.”
Cherry said he is proud of his decades on-air as a legendary TV hockey commentator: “I want to thank everyone who has watched ‘Coach’s Corner’ over the last 35 years.”
He finished by reminding fans: “Remember to wear your poppy to honour our fallen soldiers… thumbs up.”
Warmington first reported the news on Twitter.
Sportsnet confirmed the news in a statement on Twitter, explaining, “Following further discussions with Don Cherry after Saturday Night’s broadcast, it has been decided it is the right time for him to immediately step down.”
“We would like to thank Don for his contributions to hockey and sports broadcasting in Canada,” the network added.
On Saturday night’s show, speaking about the dwindling number of Remembrance Day poppies he sees people wearing, the longtime advocate for veterans made comments many found offensive.
“You people… 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,” he said. “These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada, these guys paid the biggest price.”
Cherry’s comments prompted immediate backlash, with many on social media and elsewhere calling for an apology and even his firing.
On Sunday, Sportsnet issued a statement on the situation, calling Cherry’s comments “offensive,” and apologizing for broadcasting them.
The NHL also shared their own statement, calling Sportnet’s decision to fire Cherry “justifiable.”
Cherry’s co-host Ron MacLean also issued an apology on Twitter for not shutting down the remarks as they were spoken in front of him.
Cherry has been no stranger to controversy over the years thanks to his political comments. In 2018, he received backlash for saying that people who believe in climate change are “cuckaloos.”
Back in 2016, Cherry spoke out criticizing the Tenors’ performance of “O Canada” at the MLB All Star Game by calling them “left-wing weirdos.”
In 2015, Cherry also sparked widespread criticism for saying that people who eat seal meat are “barbarians” and “savage.”
Cherry has hosted “Coach’s Corner” since 1982.