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Bruce DowbigginTo those wondering about the demise of Don Cherry, the rumours of his disappearance from Hockey Night in Canada have been greatly exaggerated.

Yes, the end is in sight for the man wearing his wife’s table cloths. Hell, he’s 85. But while others in the Rogers Communications constellation have gone dark, Cherry’s star survives.

If there were any doubts that Cherry still has a little petrol in his tank, the truth came with the news that the Toronto Maple Leafs’ young star Auston Matthews was charged in Arizona after a drunken late night with some pals.

Matthews and his witless friends allegedly harassed a security guard at 2 a.m. Matthews then was remiss in letting the Maple Leafs know of his legal issues. Some say it cost him the captaincy.

Everyone rightly dumped on Matthews. Except the Great Contrarian.

According to Cherry, the security guard should have cut some slack for the pampered millionaire ass. According to Cherry, the frightened women should have simply given him a warning, not charging him with a crime. Like a ref, saying “Keep your stick down or I’ll run you next time!”

What Cherry was missing was the entire episode was caught on surveillance video. If the woman lets him walk and the video comes out, she loses her job.

Matthews? He’s lighting cigars with this woman’s paycheque.

But of course, that’s Cherry reminding us of the values of the dressing room. Something he’s been doing with a flourish for decades. Despite all the complaints in those years from exasperated critics (including me), he’s thrived in the land of the rednecks and reprobates – which constitutes a great part of the National Hockey League audience in Canada.

With effusions like this, how does the 85-year-old still survive at Rogers when so many other big names have been cashiered in the corporation’s deep cuts thus summer? Why is Bob Cole watching HNIC from his sofa while Cherry was still making wise next to Ron MacLean on Saturday? If bloated salaries are the reason why Cole, Nick Kypreos, Doug Maclean and Bob McCown were given their walking papers, why is Cherry, with his seven-figure income, still working?

Most speculate that Rogers doesn’t want the public relations backlash from giving Cherry the boot. That’s a small part of it.

But Cherry is still doing his thing for a simple reason: He makes money for Rogers with his Coach’s Corner, which remains a valuable advertising vehicle. In a corporation that’s going through the sofa pillows to find loose loonies, that’s an important consideration.

It also highlights how little Rogers’ stable of other stars resonated with the public after the enormous $5.2-billion expenditure for the NHL broadcast/digital rights. While Rogers tried desperately to create an image as the go-to authority for NHL news, they were never able to wrest that title from TSN and its portfolio of Bob McKenzie, Darren Dreger, Ray Ferraro and Craig Button.

When it come time to cinch the belt, it was the hefty salaries of the studio creatures that were cut first.

(As well, even though it hasn’t made news, don’t think for a moment that some of the remaining Rogers personalities didn’t take a haircut to stay working.)

While Cherry is highly controversial, he has made a lot of money for people in the media over the years. His brand has been a lifeline for many who make their living in broadcasting or reporting.

So why don’t these people want to recognize Cherry with a place in the Hockey Hall of Fame?

God bless the play-by-play gentlemen who’ve won the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award over the years, but name one who has been as linked to the sport in North America as Cherry?

You don’t have to like him to admit that he’s a giant in the industry. Is it because he doesn’t hang with the post-game media crowd for drinks or travel in the company of the fraternity of TV types? Can they not delay the induction of one of their pals for one year to admit that this is a glaring omission?

Give your head a shake. And put Ron MacLean in with him.

By the same token, Cherry has been synonymous with the sport and its popularity since he started mangling the language and hammering MacLean upside the head decades ago. Why would the NHL not acknowledge his stature and put Cherry into the hall as a builder?

With a roster of laughable inductees such as Harold Ballard and Bruce Norris, you’re not going to lower the reputation of the award by giving this household name a spot.

Besides, his induction speech – and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman’s pinched expression during that oration – would be must-watch TV.

Troy Media columnist Bruce Dowbiggin career includes successful stints in television, radio and print. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he is also the publisher of Not The Public Broadcaster.

© Troy Media


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