TORONTO – Leave Coach’s Corner alone.
Don Cherry made that plea on Saturday during his weekly segment on “Hockey Night in Canada” as he addressed the acquisition of NHL broadcast rights by Rogers Communications Inc. (TSX: RCI-A) for the first time.
The 79-year-old hockey personality said he hoped the iconic program would remain as it is.
“If you’re No. 1, why would you fool around like that,” said Cherry. “I know I’m good. I didn’t fall off a turnip truck. I know everybody watches so all I’m saying is take it easy, don’t try to ruin a good thing, just leave us alone and we’ll be just as good next year.”
After Tuesday’s announcement Cherry scoffed at the notion he might retire, but also suggested he wasn’t consulted on the 12-year, $5.2-billion deal that dramatically alters the Canadian sports media landscape.
The deal gives Rogers national broadcast and multimedia rights over all NHL games starting next season. CBC will continue to broadcast “Hockey Night in Canada” for the next four years but Rogers will have editorial control.
After being prodded Saturday by sidekick Ron MacLean to talk about the deal — “Do I have to wait the whole Coach’s Corner to hear what you thought of the Rogers deal?” MacLean asked early in the segment — Cherry took his time before capping the broadcast by giving his views on the change.
“It’s going to be great for the players,” Cherry said. “It’s really something that they put the whole thing together, $5 billion and four days to put it together.”
Cherry, always prepared with a hockey anecdote, compared his segment to how he worked with Hall of Fame defenceman Bobby Orr during his four-year coaching stint with the NHL’s Boston Bruins.
“When I had Bobby Orr, he was the No. 1 hockey player in the world, I just left him alone and you know what? He had the best year ever.”
Rogers has yet to say which of CBC’s several hockey commentators will survive the transition with their jobs intact.
While Cherry’s status remains unclear, Rogers broadcast president Scott Moore told The Canadian Press in an email on Friday that he expected to speak Cherry eventually.
“I’m a big fan of Don Cherry; I’ve worked with him and have a great respect for him,” said Moore.
“I’ve already spoken to him, in fact. I look forward to sitting down with him to discuss if he wants to be part of the new arrangement.”
Cherry is already a Rogers broadcaster, albeit on radio instead of television. He co-hosts “Grapeline” with Brian Williams on Sportsnet 590 The Fan.
Saturday’s broadcast also made a minor, but telling change.
Nick Kypreos, a former hockey player turned broadcaster who works for Sportsnet, made his debut on “Hockey Night in Canada” after Coach’s Corner.
The deal is still subject to approval by the NHL board of governors, which meets Dec. 9 and 10 in Pebble Beach, Calif.
Cherry joined “Hockey Night in Canada” full-time in 1981 and CBC started the Coach’s Corner segment shortly after his arrival.
Before he started in broadcasting, Cherry had a lengthy hockey career culminating in his time with the Bruins.