A CBC Without Don Cherry Isn’t Worth Watching

For 60 years CBC (English) TV had an iron grip on the venerable institution of ” Hockey Night in Canada.”
Throughout the hockey season and the playoffs, CBC was the go-to Canadian television station for Canadian NHL Hockey.

Over the last few years CBC’s broadcast of Hockey Night in Canada (HNIC) represented about 330 hours of programming and generated about $200 million in advertising revenue for CBC. Which revenue CBC used to fund original arts and cultural programs.

CBC also used HNIC’s large Canadian audience to promote its other prime time news, drama and comedy shows.

Recently, Rogers Communications, with a very generous bid of $5.2 billion, without warning stole the NHL puck from CBC, skated the length of the ice and scored in the five hole on the unsuspecting CBC executive. And Rogers won the exclusive right to broadcast NHL games for the next 12 years.

CBC will still broadcast Hockey Night in Canada for the next 4 years, but HNIC will be under total editorial control of Rogers.

Effectively, this is the end of the road for CBC HNIC. In four years, CBC will have little to do with HNIC.

The biggest loss to the CBC is that it will no longer be able to access a working-class crowd because this very important Canadian audience only gravitated to CBC for HNIC and the presence of Don Cherry.

I always thought the combo of the bombastic Don Cherry and the politically correct CBC was truly odd.

I actually like Don Cherry a lot.

He is macho, politically incorrect, pro-hockey violence, pro-Canadian military, anti-European, chauvinistic and opinionated. And with his outlandish “in your face” clothes, he is a first class shirt disturber.

Cherry has a very loyal following. He is truly a Canadian original, reminiscent of a certain rotund and controversial Toronto Mayor who also has a very loyal following.

In short, Cherry is everything that CBC is not. And everything that CBC abhors.

I think CBC does not understand Cherry’s appeal, because CBC does not really understand, appreciate or respect the large audience who is attracted to HNIC.

Hockey Night in Canada attracts true hockey dads and hockey moms. Tim Hortons coffee-clutching life-long hockey players and fans. Hard-working men and women, mostly from Canada’s small towns and suburbs, who love everything about the game of hockey. The fighting, the swearing, the spitting.

The sweat, the blood, the body-checking, the missing teeth and broken noses. The down and dirty, elbows to the head, in the corner, when the ref’s not looking. The multiple battles in the corners and in front of the net. The harsh physicality of the sport. Its earthiness. Its speed. Its artistry. Its laser-like passing. Its rink to rink rushes. Its winner-takes-all mentality. Its balls against the boards brutality.

These people get Cherry. They love him. And Cherry understands and respects these people. Cherry speaks to them in a language and in a manner, alien to CBC.

For many hard-nosed HNIC fans, this is their only contact with CBC. The same could be said of the CBC brass.

Still CBC never “gets” these fans. As CBC does not understood “Ford Nation.”

Cherry and Hockey Night in Canada provide CBC with a rare window into Canada’s heartland. Into the working class and hard scrabble small Canadian towns and communities, and struggling outer suburbs outside of Canada’s elitist and white shoe cities of Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver. Where small town and suburban Canadians shop at Wal-Mart and Canadian Tire, instead of Whole Foods and David’s Tea.

Where Canadians drive through Tim’s for a double double, instead of strolling Pusateri’s Fine Foods with a Starbucks latte, arguing over the merits of wild Pacific salmon versus farm-raised Atlantic salmon.

The loss of Cherry and Hockey Night in Canada is a lost opportunity for CBC to escape its uptight Waspish politically correct, elitist/urban/sophisticated Toronto-centric shtetl (ghetto), still being firmly led by the omniscient Pastor Mansbridge.

But I digress.

I predict that Cherry will leave CBC’s pared down HNIC and instead find a more accommodating home on a Rogers channel broadcasting NHL hockey.

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