TORONTO — Don Cherry praised Canadians for their outpouring of support following the deaths of two Canadian soldiers this week.
But in his weekly Coach’s Corner segment on “Hockey Night in Canada” on Saturday, the outspoken hockey commentator pleaded with people not to forget all Canadian soldiers injured in combat.
“I’m not putting anybody down, but in about two or three weeks, it will be all forgotten, just like the war in Afghanistan, we’ll forget about the wounded guys, with no arms, no legs, blinded and stuff like that. We’ll go on,” Cherry said.
Dressed uncharacteristically understated in a plain dark suit — with poppy and matching red tie —Cherry dedicated the entire segment to slain soldiers Cpl. Nathan Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, who were killed in separate attacks this week.
The emotional Cherry looked on the verge of tears as he spoke about Cirillo — shown in photos with his son Marcus and two rescue dogs.
“What a beautiful guy, that’s a rescue dog, that dog would have been put to death if Nathan hadn’t got hold of him . . . people that rescue dogs like that, unbelievable,” Cherry said. “Doesn’t he look like a guy you’d like to sit and have a pop with?”
He spoke about how Vincent was an organ donor, and “gave up all his organs so that other people can live.
“It’s unbelievable that the two guys that were killed was because they were soldiers, it’s hard to believe.”
Cherry talked about Kevin Vickers, Parliament’s sergeant-at-arms who shot and killed Michael Zehaf-Bibeau.
“Terrific, what a guy, stepped up to the plate and did the job that had to be done,” Cherry said over footage of the long standing ovation Vickers received in the House of Commons the next day.
It was already an emotional night of hockey. “Hockey Night in Canada” opened with a touching video montage of the slain soldiers that included footage of the thousands of people that lined the Highway of Heroes on Friday. Then, fans stood and sang “O Canada” simultaneously in three rinks in Ottawa, Toronto, and Montreal.
But Cherry grew increasingly angry, when he chastised Canadians for forgetting about the country’s injured war veterans.
“Now all you people out there, you’re watching the parade. . .and you’re putting the flowers down, that’s terrific,” Cherry said. “(But) if you think so much of them, and I know you do — I’m sure Corporal Nathan and Patrice would want you to do this — help the wounded.”
“All you people out there out there who were so good, singing the national anthem, signing the thing, watching the thing,” he added. “Do this and send the money, I know I will.”
Information on how to donate to the late soldiers’ families was shown on the screen.
The emotional segment ended with video footage of Cirillo’s casket arriving home in Hamilton to the sound of bagpipes, and Cherry’s final words: “God love them.”