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Ron MacLean's emotional speech about Don Cherry on HNIC gets mixed reviews

Coach's Corner is no more, according to the popular Hockey Night in Canada segment's longtime co-host, Ron MacLean.

After nearly a week of relative silence in the wake of his broadcast partner and good friend Don Cherry's dismissal, MacLean addressed what's become one of the most controversial firings in Canadian media history.

"You know the story, that Coach's Corner is no more," said the 59-year-old hockey commentator on Saturday night, appearing solo during the first intermission of Hockey Night in Canada after 34 years of co-hosting with Cherry.

"We are all hurting. I have collapsed a hundred times this week, if not more," MacLean continued. "We are all disappointed. Bobby Orr is disappointed in me. Bobby, I'm disappointed in me."

Over the course of his nearly five-minute-long address, MacLean spoke to why he decided to stay with Sporstnet after Cherry's firing, despite a great deal of personal pain and uncertainty.

Speaking candidly and somberly, MacLean admitted that he "has struggled mightily to find the words" and that he still wasn't sure of what to say.

"I don't want to be cavalier in any regard, I don't want to be sanctimonious or righteous in this address that you and I are having," said MacLean, speaking directly to viewers.

"All I can do is unpack my heart a little bit here and then see how you feel."

"Knowing what to overlook is wisdom, and I felt so bad, and I apologized immediately," MacLean said of Cherry's controversial comments about immigrants and poppies, made during what turned out to be the 85-year-old commentators last-ever Coach's Corner segment last Saturday.

MacLean thanked viewers for calling out Cherry's problematic rant, praising today's "real time social media democracy."

"And Don, you know Don. Defiant. There were steps that needed to be taken because of what had been said by Don, and he didn't want to do those steps," explained MacLean. "So he made his choice and I made mine."

Ultimately, says MacLean, his decision came down to principle.

"I thought a lot about falling on my sword, too, and then I thought, no, but if I do that I infer what happened was right somehow or that I'm going along to get along, or that I'm just going to sit silently by or be a bystander again in a situation and it just took the courage," continued MacLean.

"Don taught me to stand, right? So I had to have the courage of my convictions."

MacLean expressed his deep love and respect for Cherry nonetheless, appearing to address the former NHL coach at the end of his speech, saying: "We honour you tonight in this last talk about a Coach's Corner."

Cherry himself has yet to respond to the speech, but many on Twitter praised MacLean for his candor and humility.

Others, however — those who have argued vehemently in support of Cherry's right to say whatever he wants on TV — once again criticized MacLean for throwing his longtime friend "under the bus." 

"Ron thinks social media is 'a kind of democracy' and that betraying a friend for who he is is principled," wrote one Twitter user. "What's to think? Ron has no conscience and, apparently, a very poor grasp on the truth."

"Gutless Ron MacLean should be ashamed of himself for the entire situation with Canadian patriot Don Cherry," wrote another user whose avatar is a photo of U.S. President Donald Trump.

"Ridiculous Ron looked like such a weasel as he delivered his crocodile tears eulogy for Don on corrupt and sleazy Sportsnet. Disgraceful!"

Others felt MacLean didn't go far enough in condemning what Cherry had said.

"I honestly believe Ron McLean should have been fired as well," wrote one viewer. "His apologies are not good enough, he obviously have been told to do so."

It remains to be seen what will happen to the airtime formerly devoted to Coach's Corner, a segment hailed as "one of the most watched five minutes on Canadian TV."

Sportsnet, which condemned Cherry's immigrant comments as "divisive," has said that it will be exploring "new formats" during the first intermission of Hockey Night in Canada.

What that looked like on Saturday night was a set of interviews between MacLean and Canadian hockey greats Hayley Wickenheiser and Guy Carbonneau, both of whom will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame today.

Wickenheiser noted during her interview that she appreciated how Cherry "was always talking about women's hockey."

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