Few believed the day would actually ever come, but Don Cherry was fired on Monday after nearly four decades as a staple of Hockey Night in Canada. The 85-year-old’s xenophobic rant regarding poppies and “you people” during Saturday night’s Coach’s Corner segment wound up being the final straw for Sportsnet.
While the owner of Canada’s national broadcasting rights and Ron MacLean, Cherry’s co-host, apologized for what was said, the former NHL head coach elected not to. Cherry truly made his own bed and now Canadian hockey fans are left to wonder what they’ll be shown during the first intermission of Saturday’s clash between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Pittsburgh Penguins.
At this time the answer to that question is unknown. However, if Sportsnet elects to keep the format of the segment the same and simply replace Cherry alongside MacLean, there are a number of fine candidates available to fill the void immediately or in the future based on the organization’s objectives.
Sportsnet’s search for an immediate replacement doesn’t need to be a lengthy one, especially with the answer potentially being right under their nose.
Burke has been one of the network’s hockey personalities since April 2018. The 64-year-old, who was likely to take over if Cherry was to leave on his own accord anyway, is simply a more successful, improved version of the former Boston Bruins head coach.
Like Cherry, Burke is passionate, opinionated and fiery. His old-school beliefs — such as the importance of fighting in hockey — mixed with advanced knowledge of the sport would allow him to speak to a wide range of demographics. Furthermore, he’d actually be able to present meaningful, articulate insight to that audience.
Even though his stint with Sportsnet hasn’t been that long, he’s shown what he’s capable of in his weekly To The Point segment alongside David Amber during intermission coverage of Hockey Night in Canada’s late game.
What makes Burke so intriguing is the fact that he isn’t far removed from his 30 years of front office experience in the NHL. He innovated throughout his career and remains well connected with what is happening in many facets of the league. That will only benefit his viewers.
Plus, unlike Cherry, the former general manager of the Vancouver Canucks, Anaheim Ducks and Toronto Maple Leafs knows what it takes to win a Stanley Cup.
The man known as Biznasty likely isn’t Saturday’s solution, but would be a fantastic one down the road if the correct situation presented itself. Bissonnette, who was coincidentally on Sunday’s broadcast of Rogers Hometown Hockey from Welland, Ont. when MacLean apologized, saw it all during his playing career.
His 202 regular season games as an NHL enforcer — most with the Phoenix Coyotes between 2009 and 2014 — were definitely the highlight of his days with skates on his feet, along with lining up next to Sidney Crosby for a few shifts during his rookie campaign in Pittsburgh. He also won a Calder Cup with the Manchester Monarchs of the AHL.
It’s what he’s done after hanging up the blades that makes him a fantastic option, though. Since 2017 he’s been the Coyotes’ colour commentator for radio broadcasts. On top of that, he’s part of Barstool Sports’ hockey podcast Spittin’ Chiclets — one of the most popular sports podcasts in North America.
His experiences as a player, connections within the game, focus on fun and endearing personality would make him a treat to watch every week if given the opportunity. With over 1.1 million followers on Twitter and 334,000 on Instagram, his online notoriety could drive the ratings lost with Cherry’s departure. More importantly though, he would bring the youth demographic along with him and has the tools to make Coach’s Corner (or Biznasty’s Nook) can’t miss television for a whole new generation.
When it comes to résumés that qualify someone to take over a role as prestigious as the one left by Cherry, few are better than that of Campbell-Pascall.
The 45-year-old has done it all in hockey. She captained two Canadian teams to Olympic gold (in 2002 and 2006), is the first woman to do colour commentary for a Hockey Night in Canada broadcast and has been a regular part of Sportnet’s regional broadcasts of Calgary Flames games for over half a decade.
Additionally, she’s provided colour commentary for women’s hockey during the last three Olympics and was heavily involved in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League before it folded.
With the playing and broadcasting experience she has under her belt, Campbell-Pascall would be a great fit. Her delivery is always fantastic to listen to and the fresh audience she could bring to the segment is an exciting possibility.
The 54-year-old is one of the greatest goaltenders to ever play the game and has over a decade of coaching experience between the QMJHL’s Quebec Remparts and NHL’s Colorado Avalanche. So, with that in mind, the name of the segment wouldn’t even need to change!
(That alone has got to be an enormous selling point to make this a reality, right?)
Like the others on this list, his hockey-related achievements are impressive. Roy is a four-time Stanley Cup, three-time Vezina Trophy and three-time Conn Smythe winner. Plus, like Cherry, he’s won the Jack Adams Award.
While he doesn’t have the broadcasting experience that Burke, Bissonnette and Campbell-Pascall possess, it would be interesting to see what Roy could bring to the table with a studio camera in his face. Whether it’s been on the ice, in front of the media or from the bench, he’s shown time and time again that he’s a character.
There would also just be something so beautifully poetic about an individual with a francophone background taking over for Cherry.
More NHL coverage on Yahoo Sports