Monday, December 21, 2009


Don Cherry never met a mic he didn’t like – until this week. Grapes had just been taping his FAN 590 radio show when he was approached by a 680 NEWS reporter. Both stations are owned by Rogers Broadcasting and are housed in the same complex, so 680 had an easy opportunity to seek comment from Cherry in response to criticism from neurologist Charles Tator. Tator had made headlines by suggesting that Cherry’s acceptance of fighting in hockey contributes to more injuries among players. When asked by the reporter if he cared to respond, Cherry let loose with a series of expletives. Now, most of it was done in a somewhat joking tone, which suggests a couple of things: perhaps he felt he was simply kibitzing with “one of the boys” from the newsroom down the hall; or, maybe he was deliberately attempting to ensure that his approach to a “no comment” would be completely unusable on the air. And, actually, 680 NEWS opted not to air the tape. But in the new online world, it quickly started getting passed around, and was soon in the hands of the Globe & Mail which decided to upload it to their website. From there it was picked up and broadcast by numerous other outlets, and Cherry was suddenly in the midst of a storm. As a result, the focus of the overall story immediately shifted from that of hockey injuries to the use of bad language by a professional broadcaster who is also a role model to countless young hockey fans. It’s a cautionary tale to all: in the digital era, anything can turn up online, on record and on-the-air – whether you’re just playing around or not. Second, if you don’t want to comment, a brief but respectful declination of the opportunity is always the better way to go. Notably, by subsequently refusing all requests for comment on his salty comments, Cherry did manage to starve the story of any fresh oxygen – pointing instead to his regular Saturday night slot on Hockey Night in Canada as the time and place where he will respond. He would be wise to briefly acknowledge his inappropriate choice of language, purely to assuage any parents whose kids have heard the tirade online – but should then quickly bridge to the real issue at hand, namely the allegations made by Dr. Tator and what Cherry thinks of them. Bet this week’s ratings are through the roof.

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