A New World: Does Don Cherry Have a Future with ‘Hockey Night in Canada’?

(*Originally published with Black Press)

On the day Rogers television essentially bought the NHL, Don Cherry had the same question about his future that wehad about his future.

“Do I have a job?”

Cherry was greeted (flanked) by reporters and delivered the question above, clarifying that he hadn’t been able to watch yesterday morning’s press conference and hadn’t talked to either property that now share control of his fate – the CBC or Sportsnet.

While yesterday’s takeover of the NHL’s Canadian broadcast (and webcast) rights by Rogers wasn’t a merger, it certainly called into question the short-term trajectory of several high-value personalities, like TSN’s James Duthie and Bob McKenzie, as well as Cherry.

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VIDEO: Don Cherry uncertain what new NHL deal means for him (Globe and Mail)

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Grapes (as the Don is lovingly known) has manned the ‘Coach’s Corner’ desk during Hockey Night in Canada’s first intermission and worked with CBC since 1981.

“I have no idea what’s going on,” Cherry said on Tuesday. “I haven’t talked to CBC. I didn’t see the press conference. I was en route somewhere.

“Usually, I’m the best guy in the world for a comment, but I can’t comment on something (where) I don’t know what’s going on.”

The status of Cherry and his longtime co-host Ron MacLean were discussed in code at Tuesday’s presser, with Rogers president Keith Pelley saying Rogers “will evaluate all facets of our production and our programming.”

“Don is an iconic Canadian, and the CBC personalities that they have, from Jim Hughson to Bob Cole, are all legends,” said Pelley yesterday (NHL.com). “We haven’t even started the discussion regarding editorial with CBC.”

As part of the new deal, Rogers will have editorial control of Hockey Night in Canada, even though it will be broadcast on the CBC for the next four years.

That does leave the program’s future on the Corporation – or its future in general – up in the air after 2018, and many are sure to debate whether Tuesday’s mammoth acquisition was a plus or a minus for the average Canadian viewer.

On Wednesday, Huffington Post Canada blogger Wade Rowland said the removal of hockey from Canada’s national (public) broadcaster is “a matter of concern for all Canadians” because of the financial impact it will have on the network.

Rowland, however, is a fan of the idea:

“CBC loses about $100 million in advertising revenue, but saves about the same amount in NHL contract costs, and an additional $25 million or so in production costs. (These, presumably, will be paid for by Rogers.) There will also be a saving of sales and promotion costs related to hockey broadcasts, perhaps another $30 million. On paper, this looks like a net gain for CBC of about $55 million a year — the former HNC expenses of $155 million minus the $100 million in ad revenue now in the hands of Rogers.

“… it moves the CBC one step closer to getting out of commercial sponsorship altogether, and becoming a true public broadcaster.

“Without hockey and the 320+ hours of Canadian content it provides, CBC will now have to go back to square one and figure out what it is supposed to be. It has the opportunity, now, to become what it should have been all along: a publicly-subsidized broadcaster serving its audience as citizens rather than as consumers.”

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VIDEO: On CBC’s ‘The Hour’, Ron MacLean “gets philosophical” about his Hockey Night broadcasting brother Don Cherry…