Can’t someone at CBC even run a proper apology? Nine days (and one show) after letting his mouth run several lengths ahead of his brain, Don Cherry finally got around to issuing a full apology to the three former NHL players he’d unfairly criticized in his ugly season-opening salvo on the Oct. 6 version of Hockey Night in Canada.
While his publicity agent/sidekick Ron MacLean mumbled about not helping Cherry in his five minutes of need, Cherry belatedly fell on his rhetorical sword, explaining that he should never have gone after his kind of guys – enforcers. For the Don Patrol, Cherry’s truest believers, it was a touching moment as their guru put on the hair shirt (under his dandy suit) before a national audience. Many of Cherry’s biggest fans are in the media, and they clogged Twitter with hosannas about how it takes a big man to admit he was wrong.
For those not wearing the Cherry Decoder Ring, the reaction was that the voluble ex-coach had been well briefed last week by lawyers and suits about the efficacy of a prompt apology in any potential libel or slander action, which had been hinted at by Stu Grimson, Chris Nilan and Jim Thomson, the trio of knucklebusters Cherry had wrongly linked to addiction problems.
After all, Cherry had had a Coach’s Corner two days after calling the trio “pukes, hypocrites and turncoats.” Other than lamenting the term “pukes,” Cherry had been defiant on the intervening Coach’s Corner. Then came the legal threat. Saturday, Cherry was the soul of human kindness. What’s that spell?
In his defence, Cherry was simply the leading man for bureaucratic ineptitude at HNIC and CBC. His original segment had been vetted by HNIC producers, who approved the video he was preparing and knew the general direction he was going as he lambasted Grimson, Nilan, Thomson and NHL vice-president of player safety Brendan Shanahan.
Second, CBC failed the basic test of journalistic balance by not letting the affected ex-players defend themselves within the HNIC broadcast. Had CBC and HNIC done that on the first Saturday, they might not have been getting legal threats and mounting public apologies. We won’t even get into the subsequent contradictory CBC press releases that alternately defended Cherry as colourful and outrageous, then as an outlier who doesn’t reflect the Corp’s views.
Finally, for all the abnegation going on Saturday, we couldn’t help but notice the silence of the CBC’s ombudsman, Kirk Lapointe. Hadn’t he just publicly rapped the knuckles of Kevin O’Leary, the CBC News Network financial maven, for calling a guest a “nutbar,” an insulting term but one that falls far short of “pukes, hypocrites and turncoats”? We e-mailed the ombudsman but he, like Cherry’s apology, seems to be a little delayed. We’ll let you know what he says when he gets back to us.
Rogers Sportsnet must have felt it was getting left behind in the Recidivist Sweepstakes. Last Thursday gave it a chance to recite The Code when Pittsburgh’s Arron Asham gloated over his vicious KO of Washington’s Jay Beagle. To get both sides of the story, Sportsnet hauled out noted skill guys Nick Kypreos and Marty McSorley to explain the etiquette of not gloating too much when you knock your opponent’s teeth out.
On Hockeycentral, Brad May tisk-tisked Asham’s nighty-night gesture, adding that he knows Asham regrets what he did after that fight, but what a punch! “And like he thinks, let them hate as long as they fear.” Nice.
The league declined to suspend Asham for his taunt. As HNIC’s Elliotte Friedman astutely pointed out, there’s a rule against such taunting but, seeing as how Asham hadn’t been apprised of it, the league was going to give his thuggishness a pass this time.
Leading Michael Wilbon of ESPN to sum up the reaction to Asham in the real world for humans not embedded in the Church Of Cherry. “I found it funny,” Wilbon said on Pardon The Interruption. “This is how they want to run their league, guys are hitting the ice two or three times a night, people defend it, so if that’s what they want, I’m going to find it funny.” Boom. Roasted.