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Don Cherry says he'll return to Hockey Night in Canada broadcasts


TORONTO — Don Cherry says he isn't moving on from "Coach's Corner" just yet.

On Saturday, Toronto Sun columnist Steve Simmons wrote Cherry's return next season hadn't been confirmed. The colourful and often outspoken Cherry immediately took to social media to state he was told by his bosses at Sportsnet that he'd be returning next season.

Cherry emphatically reiterated in a telephone interview Monday that he's not ready to retire from "Coach's Corner."

"Especially when (Sportsnet bosses) say they're very happy and can hardly wait for next year," Cherry said. "When the bosses say that to you, it makes you feel good."

A Sportsnet spokesperson declined comment in an email.

Simmons briefly speculated on Cherry's future in his column, writing: "Rogers is cutting all over the place, which included the removal of Bob McCown on radio and television and Doug MacLean doing the same. Cherry is handsomely compensated for his work. Not sure if this is a place they want to go with the 85-year-old."

Cherry said he was "hurt and disappointed" that Simmons didn't contact him.

"Had he called, I could've told him right off the bat," Cherry said.

"I was told during the playoffs, 'Well, we're looking forward Don to next year,' by the three bosses. They were happy with 'Coach's Corner' and the whole deal and all of a sudden (Simmons) writes this, which was very disappointing. He's got my number, he could've phoned and I would've told him that, it was no problem at all."

Cherry — affectionately dubbed Grapes — has appeared on "Coach's Corner," with long-time sidekick Ron MacLean since 1986. He has become popular with fans and a Canadian icon for his eccentric suits, high collars and often candid, pointed opinions on all things hockey.

Even after 30-plus years of speaking his mind to hockey fans, Cherry said he looks forward to each and every segment of "Coach's Corner."

"Once I'm not excited and I'm not having fun, then why do it?" he said. "At my age I don't really have to do it but I always look forward to it.

"Every Saturday, I'm excited."

While the 85-year-old native of Kingston, Ont., remains sharp as a tack, he has also ruffled a lot of feathers with his sharp tongue and penchant for not mincing words.

The former Boston Bruins and Colorado Rockies head coach became the bane of the Carolina Hurricanes and their fans last season when he called the team "a bunch of jerks." It was in response to the players doing their "Storm Surge" celebrations at centre ice when they raised their sticks to salute their supporters following home victories.

The Hurricanes embraced Cherry's criticism by selling "Bunch of Jerks" T-shirts.

Cherry, a career minor-league defenceman who played on four Calder Cup (AHL) championship teams, remains active outside of the studio. He can be seen be seen in hockey arenas during the winter as the attends two or three games weekly with his son, Tim, who is an OHL scout.

"I'm right into it," Cherry said. "The one thing I know about is hockey."

Cherry said when he decides to retire, there will be little doubt regarding his intentions. However, he adds, that time simply isn't now.

"I'm excited about (next season)," he said. "I'm looking forward to it."

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press

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