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Lions in good spirit against ferocious Ticats

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VANCOUVER — Despite a tough start to the season, Bryan Burnham says the B.C. Lions are still in good spirits — albeit with a bit of an edge.

The Lions (1-8) have yet to win a game in Vancouver this season, but the mood in the locker room is still “loose and fun” with a serious over tone, the wide receiver said.

“At the end of the day, you wake up and you’re playing a game for a living that pays the bills. So I wake up with a smile on my face and I’m excited to come to work every day,” Burnham said Friday.

“But at the same time, we’re 1-8. If we continue this trend, some of us aren’t going to be waking up with jobs.”

The Lions’ next opportunity to change their fortune comes Saturday when they host the East Division-leading Hamilton Tiger-Cats (7-2).

The two teams faced off just two weeks ago, with the Lions giving up a 15-point fourth-quarter lead en route to the Ticats’ 35-34 win.

Finishing strong has been an issue for B.C. all season and quarterback Mike Reilly said he simply wants his squad to consistently play good football.

“It’s not going to be the whole 60 minutes that you’re going to play a perfect game,” he said. “But when things start to go bad, they can’t be catastrophic. And you’ve got to find a way to flip the momentum quickly,” he said.

“None of the first 57 minutes matter if you can’t finish it in the last three.”

While B.C. has repeatedly held leads heading into the final frame, the team will go into Saturday’s contest on a five-game losing skid.

Part of the issue has been that players are trying to do too much in the final moments, said head coach DeVone Claybrooks, adding that the problem was particularly acute during the game in Hamilton.

“I mean, they didn’t do anything different in the fourth quarter than they did in the first,” he said. “It’s just that we were trying to press to make the game changing, winning play that’s going to be on (TV), that type of thing instead of just making the tackles and moving methodically.”

The Ticats come into Saturday’s game after posting a convincing 21-7 victory over the Ottawa Redblacks last weekend.

Coach Orlondo Steinauer said he liked the way Hamilton’s defence was flexible in the win.

“The game plan is one thing, but then there’s the game within the game, making adjustments along the way and then the players executing,” he told reporters this week. “And I thought all three of those things we did at a high level.”

Strong defence has been a challenge for B.C. all year. The team leads the CFL in sacks allowed with Reilly having been brought down 36 times in the first nine games.

Despite the hits he’s suffered this season, the 34 year old remains one of just two starting quarterbacks in the league to not have been brought down by an injury so far this year. The other is Edmonton’s Trevor Harris.

Reilly suffered an ankle injury when the Lions played the Ticats back on Aug. 10, but returned to practice two days later.

“We’ve gone nine more regular season games to go and I don’t think anyone in the league feels physically great,” he said on Friday. “But that’s just part of your job, to come out and play regardless of how physically beat up you feel or don’t feel.”

Reilly’s mentality has provided a strong example for the rest of the Lions, Claybrooks said.

“The toughness definitely trickles down and it definitely holds other guys accountable when they have little knicks and bruises,” the coach said.

“This guy can come and we’ve seen some of the hits that he’s taken and the ankle injury and those type of things and he’s out there the next day. It definitely makes the other guys say ‘Well, if Mike’s out there, I’ve definitely got to be out there.’ So it brings some more toughness to the whole group, for sure.”

HAMILTON TIGER-CATS (7-2) AT B.C. LIONS (1-8)

Saturday, B.C. Place

ROSTER MOVES: Hamilton’s Luke Tasker will miss Saturday’s contest after being placed on the one-game injured list. The veteran receiver has 292 receiving yards on 26 catches through seven games this season. Jalin Marshall will take over Tasker’s spot in the starting lineup.

HISTORY BOOKS: This season marks B.C.’s worst start since 1996. The last time the Lions began the year 1-9 was 1969, when they finished with a 5-11 record.

MILESTONE WATCH: Reilly is just 224 passing yards short of 30,000 in his CFL career.

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Sportsnet faces challenges after Don Cherry departure

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Sportsnet brass made the call to end Don Cherry’s nearly four-decade run on Hockey Night in Canada’s Coach’s Corner after his rant over the weekend. Their next big decision may be even tougher.

With his bombast, insight, experience and over-the-top delivery, Cherry created an institution with his appearances on the popular Saturday evening segment.

Love him or hate him, he’s hard to replace. Therein lies the challenge for Sportsnet president Bart Yabsley, Rogers Media president Jordan Banks and other company powerbrokers.

Oh to be a fly on the wall in the Rogers boardroom this week. Do they continue with the segment or rebrand for the future? If Cherry is replaced, who gets the nod? And should a successor move in right away or down the road?

Consistently a ratings hit, the first intermission this Saturday night will be appointment viewing.

Don Cherry sparked online backlash on Saturday night for his comments about immigrants not wanting to wear poppies ahead of Remembrance Day. 0:50

“It’s going to be very, very interesting to see what they do and I wouldn’t be surprised if they just let it slide for a while and put something else in there,” said David Shoalts, a former Globe and Mail sports reporter and author of Hockey Fight in Canada: The Big Media Face Off Over the NHL.

“It’s not as difficult as it would have been for them, because under Rogers they did cut [the segment] to five minutes. At the CBC, he had come to take up the whole first intermission, so that would have been a big problem.”

A spokesman said Sportsnet is “still considering options” for the first intermission segment and that company executives would not be doing interviews at this time. Segment co-host Ron MacLean did not immediately return a telephone message.

There were rumblings the network was considering moving on from Cherry during the off-season, but the 85-year-old wasn’t included in the recent wave of big-name on-air departures.

However, it’s likely Sportsnet already had ideas for the segment’s future post-Cherry.

A complete Coach’s Corner reboot is possible or there could be a shuffling of other segments. Extended highlight packages could help fill the gap. The segment could be dropped altogether, although that’s unlikely given its history and showcase status.

Cherry made comments on Hockey Night in Canada regarding new Toronto citizens not wearing poppies. 1:04

The network may choose to recognize the massive impact Cherry had as a commentator, but it would be tricky to balance that with his rather ignominious exit.

A career overview could buy some time since the seat might be a little too hot for an immediate replacement. Of course, it’s possible the page gets completely turned and Cherry’s name is not mentioned at all.

Just like when he was on the air, there will be no shortage of critics and plaudits.

Several candidates would be qualified to replace Cherry. Former hockey executive and current Sportsnet analyst Brian Burke is the early betting favourite.

Burke is a 3-2 pick to replace Cherry this Saturday and a 5-4 pick to fill the role next season, according to odds released Tuesday by SportsBettingDime.com. Sportsnet hockey commentators Kelly Hrudey, Colby Armstrong and Craig Simpson were listed among the other early favourites.

HNIC was a longtime CBC Saturday night staple, but the show and its games moved to Sportsnet when Rogers landed a 12-year, $5.2-billion US national broadcast rights deal with the NHL that began in 2014. Coach’s Corner and HNIC are still broadcast on CBC in a sub-licencing deal with Rogers Media, which owns Sportsnet.

Former CBC Sports host and current Not The Public Broadcaster podcaster Bruce Dowbiggin weighs in on Sportsnet’s decision to cut ties with the controversial longtime Hockey Night in Canada commentator. 8:51

Sportsnet apologized Sunday for Cherry’s comments about his belief that new immigrants don’t wear poppies, and in turn, don’t support veterans.

On Monday, Cherry was shown the door. In a statement, Yabsley said the comments were “divisive.”

Cherry prefaced his on-air remarks Saturday night with the phrase, ‘You people’ — drawing criticism from all quarters – but denied in interviews after his departure that he was singling out visible minorities. He has not publicly apologized for his comments.

“If I had to do it over again, I probably would have said ‘Everybody,”‘ Cherry said Tuesday in an interview on Sirius XM Canada’s “Canada Talks” channel. “But I didn’t and there’s no sense of whining about it and I paid the price.”

Given his long tenure, how — or if — his departure is addressed this weekend will be fascinating, as will MacLean’s thoughts. The veteran HNIC anchor apologized last Sunday.

“I had a good time,” Cherry said. “I’m 85 years old and I’m still having a good time. As I have always said, ‘I’m glad I’m going out on my shield. I’m not going out with a whimper.”‘

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Don Cherry defends Hockey Night in Canada comments but says he would have ‘used different words’

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Don Cherry says he won’t apologize for his divisive comments about new immigrants not wearing poppies, but the former co-host of “Coach’s Corner” says if he could do it again, he would have chosen different words.

“I think the closest I’ll come to apologizing is I wish I had used different words,” Cherry told Global News.

“I should have said everybody. If I had to do it over again, I would have said everybody.”

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Cherry, 85, was fired from the Hockey Night in Canada segment by Sportsnet Monday, following televised comments Saturday night in which he singled out “you people that come here” in Toronto and Mississauga, where he lives, for not wearing poppies, implying they don’t support Canada’s soldiers.

“You people that come here… whatever it is, you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey, at least you could pay a couple of bucks for a poppy,” he said on Saturday.

In an interview with Global News, Cherry refused to back down from his comments and said that everyone should wear a poppy to honour Canada’s fallen soldiers.

“I do believe to this day that everybody in Canada should have a poppy on, out of honour and respect of the fallen soldiers that have fallen in the Second World War, Korea and the whole deal,” Cherry said.

“Those people who gave their lives, at least we can buy a poppy.”

Pressed on whether his comments were racist, Cherry said his comments weren’t directed at minorities, and that what he said applies to anyone.

“It could have been Irish, it could have been Scottish, it could have been anybody,” he said, adding that the “silent majority” supported him.

“It was picked up the way it was picked up.”

Cherry said he was planning to apologize on this week’s upcoming Hockey Night in Canada, but was never given the chance.

“I was ready to apologize,” Cherry said. “I was gonna put out a tweet, or whatever they do, saying I was wrong and I think it could have smoothed over pretty good. But that’s the way they wanted it and that’s the way it goes.”

Global News has contacted Sportsnet about whether Cherry would have apologized, but they said they had nothing further to add.

Cherry, a former player and NHL coach, had worked as a broadcaster for more than 37 years on Hockey Night in Canada, drawing attention for a number of controversial statements including calling progressives “left-wing pinkos,” describing Quebecers as “whiners,” and making derogatory comments about European hockey players.

Sportsnet president Bart Yabsley said in a statement Monday that it was “the right time for him to immediately step down.”

“During the broadcast, he made divisive remarks that do not represent our values or what we stand for,” Yabsley said.

Coach’s Corner co-host Ron MacLean also apologized Sunday for Cherry’s remarks. During Cherry’s rant, MacLean could be seen nodding and giving a thumbs-up.

‘We were wrong:’ Ron MacLean apologizes for Don Cherry’s comments on Hockey Night in Canada

MacLean issued a televised apology that Cherry’s remarks were “hurtful, discriminatory” and that he wished he had responded differently on air.

“Don Cherry made remarks which were hurtful, discriminatory, which were flat out wrong,” MacLean said. “I owe you an apology, too. I sat there, did not catch it, did not respond.

“Last night was a really great lesson to Don and me. We were wrong, and I sincerely apologize. I wanted to thank you for calling me and Don on that last night.”

Cherry told Global News that he was “disappointed” in his co-host Ron MacLean, but that the two were still friends.

“He buried me. I was very disappointed the way he handled [it],” Cherry said. “I don’t want to condemn him but I was very disappointed.”

Cherry’s remarks were roundly criticized by politicians across Canada including Toronto Mayor John Tory and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh. The National Hockey League also weighed in, saying the comments “made last night were offensive and contrary to the values we believe in.”

Steven Purewal, a historian on the contribution of Indian soldiers during the First World War, told Global News on Monday it was wrong for Cherry to suggest immigrants don’t support Canadian veterans, noting the broadcaster has no way of knowing who’s an immigrant and who was born in Canada.

“It endorses a stereotype that the immigrant is somehow unpatriotic, is thankless about the sacrifices it took to build the country,” he said.

“What we need to be telling Canadians is that many, many diverse communities fought in the Great War and the Second World War. Without their contributions, we wouldn’t have the freedoms we have today.”

Meanwhile, some have been calling for the hockey host’s return. A Change.org petition called ‘Bring Back Don Cherry!’ has amassed over 108,000 signatures.

As for the long-time hockey pundit, Cherry said he is still processing being fired.

“I don’t think it’s hit yet,” he said. “It will be a little different Saturday when I sit down and watch where I was for 38 years.”

“I have no idea and I don’t think Ron Maclean has any idea what they’re going to run after the first period… It’ll be watched that’s for sure because everybody will want to see what goes on at the end of the first period.”

— With a file from Sean Boyton

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Brian Burke considered favourite to replace Don Cherry

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The Canadian Press


Published Tuesday, November 12, 2019 10:56AM EST


Last Updated Tuesday, November 12, 2019 11:09AM EST

TORONTO – Former NHL executive Brian Burke is listed as the heavy favourite to be Don Cherry‘s successor on “Hockey Night in Canada” on one sports betting site.

SportsBettingDime.com has released odds on candidates to replace Cherry after the commentator was sacked by Sportsnet yesterday for a rant about immigrants not wearing poppies on his “Coach’s Corner” segment on Saturday.

Burke, who currently works as an analyst at Sportsnet, is listed as the 3-2 favourite (must bet $2 to win $3) to appear on Cherry‘s longtime “Coach’s Corner” segment on Saturday.

Burke is the 5-4 pick to be the full-time replacement next season.

Sportsnet has not said whether it plans to keep the “Coach’s Corner” segment, which has been a first-intermission staple on HNIC.

Sportsnet hockey commentators Kelly Hrudey, Colby Armstrong and Craig Simpson are among the other betting favourites for Cherry’s job.

The site also is taking odds on what Cherry does next, with working for another media organization the favourite.

If he goes into politics, the odds consider Cherry’s most likely destination to be under Ontario Premier Doug Ford and the Conservative party.

Cherry is listed as a 2,000-1 pick to join the NDP.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 12, 2019.

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