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Ousted NHL analyst Don Cherry explains Sportsnet exit after immigrant remarks

Thomas Barrabi

Canadian NHL analyst Don Cherry provided a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the circumstances behind his firing earlier this month, asserting that his former employer Sportsnet “made it impossible” for him to address his remarks on Canadian immigrants that led to his removal.

Cherry, 85, spoke out on the first episode of his new “Grapevine” podcast on Tuesday, weeks after he drew widespread criticism for accusing immigrants of failing to support Canada’s fallen military veterans. Sportsnet subsequently fired Cherry as host of the “Coach’s Corner” segment on its flagship “Hockey Night in Canada” program.

“Evidently I said something – everybody knows what I said,” Cherry said on the podcast. “I offered to explain, not an apology, but I was going to smooth it over. They made conditions that made it impossible for me to do it. I just couldn’t do it.”

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Cherry did not elaborate on the conditions Sportsnet sought to impose. Sportsnet referred a request for comment to its original statement on Cherry's firing.

The Canadian broadcasting legend has repeatedly refused to apologize for his remarks on the Nov. 9 edition of “Coach’s Corner.” During the segment, just hours ahead of the Canadian holiday of Remembrance Day, Cherry ripped immigrants for not wearing poppies to honor fallen soldiers, in keeping with tradition.

"You people love — they come here, whatever it is — you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey," Cherry said at the time. "The least you could pay is a couple of bucks for a poppy or something like that. These guys pay for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada. These guys pay the biggest price.”

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Both Sportsnet and the NHL distanced themselves from Cherry’s comments in the days before his dismissal.

During the podcast, Cherry acknowledged that he used “two little words” that “just seemed to set everybody off.” He added that he was “disappointed” in the response from Sportsnet president Bart Yabsley but harbored no ill will toward his former employer.

“I said what I said. I still say it. I still say everybody in Canada should wear a poppy. I said it before and I’ll say it again: Young men died over there for our way of life,” Cherry added.

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