THOMAS: Don is gone and Hockey Night will go on

Thanks for the memories Grapes, but it’s time to call it a career.

A view of a portion of a wall mural at Svendsen Bros Automotive at 701 Front Rd. where hockey commentator Don Cherry's likeness was vandalized sometime overnight Tuesday Nov. 12, 2019 in Kingston. Submitted / Kingston Whig-Standard/Postmedia Network

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One of the most polarizing figures in all of hockey is officially done on Hockey Night in Canada.

Don Cherry was released from his contract with Sportsnet after comments on last Saturday’s HNIC telecast.

“You people… love our way of life, love our milk and honey. At least you could pay a couple of bucks for poppies or something like that. These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada.”

This is not the first time Cherry has made bigoted remarks, and the powers that be— after plenty of fan reaction— decided this time Grapes had gone too far. As the owner of every edition of Rock’em Sock’em Hockey and every other annual highlight tape Cherry has put out, it pains me say I have to agree.

I’m not discrediting Cherry’s patriotism or his support for Canadian veterans. His love for Canada is a large part of why so many love him, and nobody is arguing the importance of supporting the troops. It is impossible to deny these comments are based on racism.

To be clear, he does not use the word immigrant in his speech, however it is painfully obvious that is the group of people he is referring to. My question is this; How can he tell the people he sees around his home in Mississauga, without poppies, are immigrants? Has he stopped them in the streets for a casual conversation, a thumbs up, and a “Can I check your passport? Let’s Go!” Unlikely.

It is fair to assume Cherry is basing his assumption purely on race, which seems entirely asinine when you consider Mississauga is a cultural melting pot and his goal is to weed out non-Canadians who “came here and love our milk and honey,”

In Spruce Grove, the poppy is everywhere, but that does not mean every single person in the city has been wearing one since the beginning of November. There is absolutely no way to tell who was born here, who was not, or who has respect for service based on the presence or lack of a poppy.

That is not what our forefathers fought for. In Canada, our diversity is our strength. There is no mold for what a Canadian looks like, and unless Cherry is one of the just over 1.5 million Indigenous people living across the country, he, like the majority of Canadians, is the product of immigration.

As far as we know, Cherry is a third generation Canadian, the son of Delmar ‘Del” Cherry, and grandson of John T. Cherry, who happened to be born prior to confederation in 1867. That lineage was not created smack in the middle of Toronto.

Canadians have forgiven Cherry for his brazen comments on multiple occasions, and networks have been happy to turn a blind eye to any racism thanks to the ratings he brings in. Now it’s time for the curtain to close on all of that.

Love him or hate him, there is no doubt Don Cherry will leave a lasting impression on the game of hockey. We will always know the importance of using the point, blocking shots, and being a good Canadian kid from (insert small town here), but this type of bigotry cannot continue to interrupt broadcasts intended to shape childhood memories.

In a time where a clear war is being waged on anybody who is different in our neighbours to the south, it is time to embrace the diversity that makes our country great. It is not time to tear that diversity apart.

Thanks for the memories Grapes, but it’s time to call it a career.

jothomas@postmedia.com

twitter.com/JoshThomasRepEx

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