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Loss to Flyers secondary as Leafs await diagnosis of Marner’s injury

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TORONTO – The outcome of Saturday’s game suddenly became less important than the outcome of the diagnosis.

When Mitchell Marner got tangled up with Carsen Twarynski during a centre-ice face-off in the second period, his left skate stepped on the Flyer’s blade and slid out abruptly. As a result, Marner’s right foot twisted violently, injuring his ankle to an extent that he had to hobble and crawl to the Toronto Maple Leafs’ bench, where he was fished up by his teammates.

Marner tried to participate in one more shift but crumpled when his foot couldn’t bear weight. The high-flying winger’s attempt to test out his ankle during a TV timeout only resulted in a conversation with trainer Paul Ayotte, a return to the medical table, and an announcement that he was done for the night.

He won’t travel to Chicago for Sunday’s game.

“You never know what the situation is or what’s really going on in his body and in his mind,” said Auston Matthews, before vocalizing what an entire fan base is thinking.

“I just hope he’s OK.”

Marner’s injury — severity unknown — comes as uneasy news to Leaf Nation, who has yet to watch its top line skate in full and, as a result, is getting antsy to see what the NHL’s most expensive complement of forwards can accomplish at peak health.

Dashing salt in the wound with salt was a 3-2 Philadelphia Flyers shootout victory at Scotiabank Arena before the Leafs hit the road for eight of their next nine contests.

After a mediocre October, the Leafs have gained traction since the return of Marner’s centreman, John Tavares, from a broken finger and now have points in four straight. Expecting first-line left wing Zach Hyman (knee) back sometime next week, Toronto had appeared to be straightening its defensive game and its bill of health simultaneously.

A reminder of that was defenceman Travis Dermott (off-season shoulder surgery) jumping up in the play shortly after Marner went down, taking a pretty feed from William Nylander and joyously sniping his first goal in just his fifth game of the season.

“That was pretty much the exact same spot I scored my first goal, so nice little flashback there,” Dermott said.

“From Willy too, so that was awesome. It gets the adrenalin going even more than it usually is, so it’s nice to see the boys getting excited for you like that and definitely makes you feel right back in it.”

“I can hear him screaming from the blue line,” Matthews smiled. “He’s a really passionate guy. Loves to score, loves to win, a really good teammate, so I’m really happy for him to get that first one.”

Alas, Toronto had dug itself an 0-2 hole by that point.

Philadelphia defender Philippe Myers opened the scoring in Period 1, lasering a high shot over Frederik Andersen’s blocker that zipped out as fast as it flung in.

Philly’s leading goal-getter, Oskar Lindblom, struck next, niftily deflecting a wide Travis Konecny shot into the roof of Andersen’s cage on the power play.

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But, as is so often the case this fall, Toronto roped its opponent back in after surrendering an early lead.

With the bench shortened and Leafs wingers seeing extra shifts in the third, Nylander scored his fifth off a pretty backhand feed from Auston Matthews to knot the game at two goals apiece.

Matthews later admitted he was attempting an Andrei Svechnikov–style lacrosse goal from behind the net and only fed his wingman after the puck slipped off his flattened blade.

“It was close,” Nylander said.

“But it ended up right on my tape, so it was nice.”

A thrilling, seesaw overtime brimming with open looks, clanged posts and odd-man rushes solved nothing, unless you count boredom.

“You really want to get that extra point, especially with how hard we worked to get back in that situation,” Matthews said.

Nylander scored in the skills contest, but Claude Giroux (fully cocked slapshot) and Sean Couturier (slick deke) countered with daggers as Flyers-Leafs required more than 65 minutes for a second straight Saturday.

Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman talk to a lot of people around the hockey world, and then they tell listeners all about what they’ve heard and what they think about it.

The urgency to fill Marner’s spot in the lineup — Does Jason Spezza climb down from the press box? Does Kyle Dubas recall a body from the Marlies? — kicks in immediately as the Maple Leafs quickly packed their gear and hopped a charter to Chicago on Saturday night.

Tired and banged up, the Maple Leafs will take on the Blackhawks without their leading point-producer of the past two seasons, their premier passer, their power-play maestro, and their penalty-killing water bug.

What do the Maple Leafs miss when you subtract Marner from the equation?

“Really, the heartbeat of our locker room,” Tavares said recently. “His attitude on a daily basis, the work ethic he brings, and the amount of fun he has.”=

Minutes before boarding a charter, Babcock — winner of 700 games — found himself at a loss.

“Well, I mean, what are you going to do?” the coach said. “It’s hockey. Injuries happen and you find out more about other guys. I don’t know the extent of this. I don’t know if it’s a few days or weeks or whatever.

“There’s no sense on dwelling on it. Someone else gets an opportunity. Let’s go.”

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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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