Don Cherry and Ron MacLean

Ron MacLean speaks for the first time since Don Cherry firing

For the past 35 years, veteran sportscaster Ron MacLean has been sitting side-by-side with Don Cherry during their wildly popular Coach's Corner segment on Hockey Night in Canada.

That ended this week with the high-profile firing of Canada's most iconic hockey commentator.

Cherry, 85, was dismissed from his position on Monday over controversial comments he'd made about immigrants and poppies during Saturday night's broadcast of the Rogers-owned Sportsnet program.

"Don made comments that were hurtful and prejudiced and I wish I had handled myself differently," said MacLean, 59, in a statement on Sunday as public criticism mounted against Cherry.

"It was a divisive moment and I am truly upset with myself for allowing it. I have worked with Don for 30 years, and we both love hockey," MacLean continued. "But last night, I know we failed you."

What MacLean didn't know at the time was that his longtime co-host and friend would be fired the next day.

"It all happened so fast. I wish we could have had another day," said MacLean to the Toronto Sun in a piece published early Thursday, noting that he was worried for the well-being of his Coach's Corner co-host.

"I love Don."

MacLean says that he will appear on Hockey Night in Canada this Saturday, though he is still uncertain about what will happen in Cherry's absence... and about what he'll go on record saying about his friend being fired.

"I don't mean to run away, or skulk away, or evade," said MacLean to a CBC reporter in the parking lot of the network's Toronto headquarters, where Sportsnet's hockey arm is now located, on Wednesday evening. 

"But I have to have these days to make sure I am right in what I say this weekend... To think about all that's going on and process it."

"That's where I'm at. And I'll leave it at that," concluded MacLean. "You will see us on Saturday."

He may have broken his silence in the wake of Cherry's dismissal, but MacLean didn't say enough to appease fans on either side of the vicious online debate surrounding Sportsnet's decision.

Fans of Cherry's who are petitioning for the hockey commentator's re-instatement say MacLean "threw [Cherry] under the cancel culture bus" with his original statement on Sunday.

"This is so very disappointing," wrote one fan following MacLean's most-recent on-camera comments.

"I always thought we held ourselves to a much higher standard than those who had never played the game. Ron was disloyal to Don after so many years. It’s just so sad. Canada is not the country it was. We have lost something rare/special this week."

Others are saying MacLean should step down for nodding his head in agreement as Cherry griped about how new Canadians don't wear poppies.

"You people that come here, you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey, at least you can pay a couple of bucks for poppies or something like that," said Cherry on Saturday in the rant that got him fired.

"These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada."

Cherry, who appeared on Tucker Carlson's Fox News program yesterday, maintains that his comments were merely patriotic. His bosses at Sportsnet disagreed, conceding in a statement that his comments were "discriminatory" and "offensive."

Lead photo by

Ron MacLean

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