One of the greatest hockey players who has ever lived, has come to the defense of fired NHL broadcaster Don Cherry.
Legendary Boston Bruins defenseman Bobby Orr called Cherry’s firing “disgraceful.”
Cherry was dismissed last week by Canadian sports channel Sportsnet, after he criticized some new Canadian immigrants for not honoring Canada’s fallen soldiers and veterans by wearing Remembrance Day poppies.
The remembrance poppy is an artificial red flower worn by many Canadians for two weeks leading up to Remembrance Day (November 11). They are sold by veteran’s associations to raise money for servicemen and women. The tradition of wearing poppies to honor soldiers began in 1921.
Cherry, a former NHL player and coach, caused a stir earlier this month when discussing new immigrants who don’t wear poppies: “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. These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada.”
Cherry was fired by Sportnet two days later. He refuses to apologize and only regrets the the use of the words: “You people.”
“I think [the word choice] was a mistake,” he said. “But I think the big thing was that I should have said ‘everybody’ — that was the big, big thing.”
Orr, who was coached by Cherry with the Boston Bruins in 1974-75, is dismayed by what’s happened to his former coach.
“This whole thing is unbelievable,” Orr told the Toronto Sun on November 16. “Don Cherry is a good man and to do this to him is disgusting.”
This was the second time Orr spoke out in defense of his former coach.
On November 14, Orr blasted the firing of Cherry on Boston radio station WEEI, using the same word “disgusting” to describe the move. Orr, who is Canadian, has lived in the Boston area for many years.
“I know Grapes (Cherry’s nickname) better than anybody,” Orr told WEEI. “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.”
Orr also blasted Cherry’s former Sportsnet co-host, Ron MacLean, who gave a thumbs up on the air after Cherry’s November 9 comments, but then issued an apology, stating “Don made comments that were hurtful and prejudiced.”
“To throw [Cherry] under the bus like this is wrong,” Orr said. “And for his partner (MacLean) to do it as well. Shame on him.”
Orr is worried about the well-being of his long-time friend after being fired from a broadcasting job he held for 38 years.
“I am worried about Don as a man,” Orr told the Toronto Sun. “His health and well being. That’s why I have been calling so much. I don’t want anything more to happen to him.”
Orr believes his former coach is one of the the most patriotic men he’s ever met.
“Who has done more?” asked Orr? “He’s very good to the veterans, the police, the firefighters, minor hockey players and fans. They all know what he meant and I know what he meant.”
Orr also told the Toronto Sun his phone has been ringing off the hook since Cherry’s firing.
“I have never had more calls on anything,” Orr said. “Down here in the United States it’s all impeaching the president and up there it’s all impeaching Don Cherry. The hockey players love Don. And they respect him.”
It’s unclear if Cherry will ever be back on Sportsnet, but for those who still want to hear his commentary, he launched a podcast called Grapevine with his son.