Don Cherry was fired from Sporstnet on Monday, Nov. 11, bringing an end to the iconic hockey analyst’s weekly Hockey Night In Canada Coach’s Corner segment which began in 1981. (Contributed)

COLUMN: MITCHELL’S MUSINGS: Grapes falls victim to online justice

Glenn Mitchell reflects on the firing of Hockey Night in Canada commentator Don Cherry

It’s a sign of our times really.

From Canadian icon treasured enough to make the Top 10 list of greatest Canadians of all time, to a fired has-been in less than 48 hours. Now that’s modern justice for you.

In case you’ve been living under a rock, one without Wi-Fi, Don Cherry was fired on Remembrance Day, ironically, for something he said on Coach’s Corner last Saturday night on Hockey Night in Canada.

He was trying to make a case for wearing poppies on Remembrance Day, to support and pay respect for the brave men and women who gave their lives so we can have the freedom and all the spoils that come with it.

Anyone who follows Grapes even remotely knows he is passionate about the military and an unabashedly proud patriot who plugs both flag and country every chance he gets. And not quietly.

I think that’s what he was trying to do Saturday night. At first comparing the apparent lack of poppies in Toronto to small-town Canada where you see them more often, he overstepped his reach by railing against “You people” who enjoy the riches of Canada but can’t cough up a couple of bucks for a poppy for those who sacrificed so much.

The most generous translation is his passion betrayed him as he stumbled through what was meant to be a plea for wearing poppies and a lesson on Canadiana 101 for newcomers, utilizing a few word choices that I’m sure he’d like to take back if he could.

It’s worth mentioning that part of Cherry’s charm in the first place is his lunch-bucket approach to language and life, so for him to get worked up about a subject he feels deeply about and stammer and stutter and maybe not express himself in the best words possible is not that unusual.

Besides, that’s what Ron MacLean is there for. He’s supposed to be the liberal, modern foil to some of Cherry’s more Neanderthal views.

On this night, he was strangely quiet, even giving Grapes a thumb’s up at the end of his rambling diatribe, although it wouldn’t be surprising if he missed a word or two of the grand finale.

READ MORE: Web Poll: Do you agree with Sportsnets firing of Don Cherry for ‘you people’ comment?

However, the Twittersphere wasn’t about to take this affront on humanity lying down and sat down and started judging with righteous indignation almost immediately.

Now to be fair, the ungenerous translation of Cherry’s ramblings is something to the effect of “get with the program or go home to where you came from.” That’s bad. That’s Trumpian bad.

That was not likely his intention, in his passionate pursuit of all things poppy, but the subtext was there nevertheless and gave the universe all the fodder it needed to pounce. And it did. Quickly.

By Sunday Sportsnet, the broadcaster of HNIC (bet you thought it was CBC), was feeling the heat and apologized for broadcasting such “divisive” material and that was followed by an apology by MacLean who managed to save his job by throwing Cherry under the team bus.

An NHL statement condemning Cherry soon followed. The pile-on game was in full swing.

So by Monday, Cherry was gonzo after 38 years of service. He is 85 so some said good riddance and others said: “It’s about time.”

Maybe, but I say it’s a shame and another sad example of internet justice run amok. So much for any sober second thought on the issue.

In an earlier time, the incident would have been reported in the press Tuesday, following the holiday, and discussed in towns and cities for days until Cherry had the time to address any outstanding issues, like possibly an apology, the following Saturday on Coach’s Corner.

But not in today’s world where the possibility of something going viral haunts us all.

I sometimes miss parts of the game on HNIC but never the first-period intermission. That’s over. He loves Canada and he loves our national game, warts and all. And Canada, most of it, loves him back, warts and all.

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Glenn Mitchell is a columnist and former editor of The Morning Star.

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