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Inside the NHL

Long before the poppy problem, it was time for Don Cherry to go

One simple headline in Tuesday's editions of Le Journal de Montreal says it all when it comes to Don Cherry.

"Bon Debarras" screams the front-page banner over a picture of Cherry in the copy tweeted by Columbus Dispatch beat writer Brian Hedger, in town for Tuesday's Blue Jackets-Canadiens game in Bell Centre.

Translation: Good riddance.

That's where this corner stands on Cherry, now deposed from his Saturday night slot on "Coach's Corner," where he has come into households across Canada – and thus Western New York – for the last 40 years. Cherry long ago stopped being a viable analyst of the NHL, his shelf life far expired.

CBC and then Sportsnet marched on with this Archie Bunker parody in his weekly role. Cherry was anti-Russian, anti-Swede, anti-take-away-fighting. He still wanted the Rock-Em-Sock-Em kind of game, the name of the video series he popularized in the 1980s and '90s.

It's just not that way anymore, Coach.

There is some strange irony to the incident that earned Cherry his exit. Canadian soldiers are near to his heart. He has visited with them around the globe, long paid tribute to those who were lost. Then came Saturday night, when Cherry went off the rails for the final time complaining that immigrants in Toronto and his hometown of Mississauga weren't wearing poppies as a show of support of the troops heading into Remembrance Day.

“You people that come here, love our way of life, love our milk and honey,” Cherry said. “At least you could pay a couple of bucks for poppies or something like that. These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada.”

Sure, he should have offered an apology for his use of "you people." The difference this time – unlike when he attacked Russians or "chicken Swedes" or anti-fighters as "pukes" or any of the numerous offenses he has committed against other groups or nationalities – was that Cherry was criticizing fellow Canadians.

“I know what I said and I meant it,” Cherry told the Toronto Sun on Monday after his dismissal. “Everybody in Canada should wear a poppy to honor our fallen soldiers. I speak the truth and I walk the walk. … I cannot be turned into a tamed robot. ... I would have liked to continue doing Coach’s Corner. The problem is if I have to watch everything I say, it isn’t Coach’s Corner.”

The fact is, however, you do have to watch everything you say in today's gotcha mob society. Cherry couldn't survive.

The public flooded the Canada Broadcast Standards Council website with so many complaints that the CBSC asked citizens to stop sending them. The NHL issued a statement decrying what Cherry said, and you have to believe the phone lines were burning up from New York to Toronto. How much longer were advertisers going to stay on with Rogers Sportsnet if Cherry remained on the air?

And look at the company itself. Rogers Sportsnet, reeling from its $5.2 billion tab for its NHL rights deal, has recently jettisoned a lot of good veterans on hockey coverage such as John Shannon, Doug MacLean and Nick Kypreos. And 30-year Toronto sports talk host Bob McCown left the company over the summer.

Cherry stayed on, but Rogers certainly took advantage of the situation to get a break from his salary. Cherry has been an icon to many players in the game, and the draft prospects on tour each year at the Stanley Cup final are always amused by him. Rasmus Dahlin, remember, got the thumbs-up picture with Cherry that his dad requested he get during the 2018 trip to Game 4 in Washington.

Cherry finally went on the offense Tuesday night, doing multiple Canadian television interviews and appearing with Tucker Carlson on FOX News Channel. His explanation was essentially the same in each interview.

"The big thing is I should have said, if I had been smart and protecting myself, that everybody should be wearing a poppy," Cherry told Carlson. "It's two words that got it. 'You people.' As you know, people are very sensitive like that and it got me."

As for Cherry's work, we haven't learned much from him about hockey in years other than his tired rants of how Bobby Orr and Doug Gilmour were the best there ever were. Good young Canadian boys. It has long been time for "Hockey Night in Canada" to refocus its broadcast. Get more information to fans. Keep luring the younger fans that advertisers want.

Don Cherry's time had long passed. The poppies were just the way for Rogers to finally get him off the air.

Marner injury delays Leafs' cap dilemma

The Toronto Maple Leafs have announced they are going to be without speedy forward Mitch Marner for at least four weeks after he suffered an ankle injury last week against Philadelphia. It sure looked like the dreaded high ankle sprain that Jack Eichel has endured twice in his career, so you can put Marner down for at least 15-20 games out of the lineup, which would mean he'll miss the Nov. 29-30 home-and-home set with the Sabres.

That's obviously a massive loss for the Toronto offense, just as the Leafs got John Tavares back into the lineup. The one bit of good news is that it can push the Leafs' salary cap dilemma well into December.

Zach Hyman returns and Marner can simply take his place on long-term injured reserve, giving the Leafs the room to run a full 23-man roster and not need to try to send players through waivers to the minors to be cap-compliant.

Globe is game site No. 77 for Sabres

According to, the Ericsson Globe in Stockholm became the 77th venue to host a Sabres regular season game when Buffalo played its two games against Tampa Bay last weekend in Sweden.

The Sabres have played 1,023 regular season games at Memorial Auditorium. Thursday's game against Carolina will be No. 888 in KeyBank Center. Their most visited road venue is Madison Square Garden (91), followed by three that no longer exist – Boston Garden (83), Pittsburgh's Mellon Arena (81) and the Montreal Forum (80).

Ericsson Globe becomes the 14th venue that has hosted the Sabres for only one or two games. The only city in which Buffalo has played in three different venues is Detroit – Olympia Stadium, Joe Louis Arena and Little Caesars Arena. The Sabres have played Tampa Bay in three venues, but Expo Hall and Amalie Arena were in Tampa and the Thunderdome (now Tropicana Field) was across the causeway in St. Petersburg).

The Sabres' best points percentage for at least 10 visits is the .800 mark in Arizona's Gila River Arena (8-2-0).

Final Sweden thoughts

The people of Sweden were as friendly as you could ever want to meet, and virtually everyone spoke English, so there were no issues there. But it was simply odd how it seemed no one knew there were NHL games in town.

Restaurant servers, Uber drivers and even the clerk at the gift shop in spectacular City Hall would ask what you were in town for and when you would say the NHL games, they would ask, "There's hockey games going on?"

I saw virtually no advertising for the games in the city, and the league ran no ancillary events other than Thursday's open practice. The locals mostly shunned that because they didn't want to buy tickets to see a workout.

I would have thought the games would be a bigger deal in Sweden. They were sold out and the seats were full, but good chunks of the crowd came from the United States and other spots in Europe. I was expecting a bigger "event." It was just two regular-season games a long way away from home.

That said, both teams were thrilled with their accommodations at the Grand Hotel and their ability to move about town with ease from that headquarters spot. The hotels, restaurants, museums and subway system were all excellent.

Stockholm is exactly the kind of big European city the NHL should be playing in. It just seemed like there wasn't much of a buzz in the city for the games.

Stockholm Scenes: The subway stations as works of art

Around the boards

• The Sabres need to take advantage of their next two opponents' big home-road disparities. Carolina is 7-3 at home but just 3-4-1 on the road. Ottawa is 5-4 at Canadian Tire Centre but just 1-6-1 away from it after Monday's 8-2 walloping in Raleigh.

A visit by the Hurricanes will be no easy task, however, as the Sabres have lost nine straight to Carolina (0-6-3) and have given up 23 goals in the last five meetings.

• The Sabres will be looking to break another 0-6-3 skid Sunday in Chicago, where they have lost their last nine trips to United Center and haven't beaten the Hawks since South Buffalo native Patrick Kane was drafted No. 1 overall in 2007. The last three losses have all come in overtime or shootout.

• Former Sabres goaltender Anders Nilsson, now with Ottawa, got pulled after giving up four goals in Monday's loss at Carolina, his first start after being named the NHL's First Star of the Week. Nilsson went 3-0 last week, stopping 96 of 101 shots to compile a 1.64 GAA and .950 save percentage. He was a capable backup for Robin Lehner here in 2016-17,  going 10-10-4/2.67/.923.

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