Sports Hockey

Don Cherry belongs on the air

By Jerry Agar, Toronto Sun



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Rogers Communications, now that you own the broadcast rights to NHL hockey games, I will tell you why you should keep Don Cherry on television.

Simply put, he is unforgettable.

I once spent a weekend with Grapes. I was doing promo for the Brandon Wheat Kings hockey team and we brought the man himself in to speak.

It was my job to squire him around, including to and from Winnipeg’s airport. He was fascinating and compelling.

The new deal that has Rogers controlling hockey broadcasting in Canada for the next dozen years raises a lot of questions about where and how we will view the games in the future.

Will television viewing still dominate over the course of the deal?

Media companies are eager to move content to all the “platforms” they control, and moving sports from free TV, or even basic cable, is a growth industry.

If you want to see the game, you have to buy a ticket one way or another these days.

Monday Night Football used to be free. Now you have to pay for a sports channel in order to see it.

The who, what, where and how of all of those deals makes for fascinating reading and speculation for sports fans, tech geeks and, I am sure, for Rogers executives as well.

You would think that would fill a lot of newspaper pages and talk shows.

But that isn’t what all the hot air and ink was spilled over last week.

The conversation in the media, at Tims and on the sidelines of kids’ sporting events, was mostly about whether Ron and Don will still do Coach’s Corner.

On Saturday, Cherry showed a video of hockey superstar Alex Ovechkin carefully taping a stick and trimming the tape with scissors.

He pointed out to kids that their parents spend a lot of money on their hockey equipment and perhaps they could look after that investment in the same way Ovechkin does.

It was a public service to parents and a good lesson for kids, delivered by a guy who isn’t worried whether someone thinks he should stick to the “plays and players” type of broadcasting everyone else does.

What other sports broadcaster would take the time to honour Canada’s soldiers and cheerlead for his country the way Cherry does?

The fact some people want to stop him from doing it, and take to the Internet to describe their hatred for him, says more about them than it does about Cherry, a man who loves his country and will speak up loudly for it.

With no disrespect intended to other sports broadcasters, Cherry is irreplaceable.

Name another one who is as commented upon and argued about as much as Cherry.

He reminds me of Kevin O’Leary on Dragons’ Den.

The other panelists on that show are great, but O’Leary, like Cherry, is the one you remember most and most love to hate.

Cherry and O’Leary speak the brutal truth, as they see it, and weather the slings and arrows from the resulting attacks.

They understand that so-called Canadian politeness doesn’t always make for the best television show.

I am sure Cherry doesn’t remember me from my encounter with him all those years ago, but I will never forget him.

And neither will you. That’s the point.

— Agar hosts the 9 a.m. to noon show on Newstalk1010 and Straight Talk on the Sun News Network 

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