Ron and Don: Together Again?

TORONTO (Mar. 11) — Starting today with a confession: I have no idea when the photo, below, was taken. But, looking at Ron MacLean, Don Cherry and a birthday cake, I’m going to assume (until told otherwise) that it was sometime around Feb. 5, when Cherry turned 90 years of age. And, I’m going to further assume that MacLean chose the milestone occasion to try and bury the hatchet with his once–inseparable friend; the duo having persisted on Coach’s Corner for 33 years, longer than any program in the history of Canadian television. That, alone, is worthy of a partnership for life. Even if interrupted by the events of mid–November 2019, when Donald S. was unfairly bounced by Rogers for his “you people” remark while encouraging Canadians to wear poppies for Remembrance Day. And, MacLean’s choice to censure Cherry the next night on the Hometown Hockey telecast.

Too much time has passed — nearly 4½ years — for this estrangement to continue. Ron has been vilified, from coast–to–coast, for his failure to support Cherry; a decision that hurt the old coach and created feelings hard enough for Cherry to mothball the friendship. Despite his gruff demeanor on the air, however, Donald S. is an old softie. And, MacLean has never done anything purposeful to harm someone else. No one, to this day, can comprehend the immovable rock and a hard place between which MacLean found himself that fateful week. He had three choices, none of which were appealing: a) support Cherry’s stance and find himself also out of work; b) say nothing and look like an idiot or c) journey into survival mode and condemn his long–time partner. Still only 58 years of age, MacLean chose Door No. 3. Knowing, full well, it would negatively impact his alliance with Cherry.

To this day, there are countless people across the land who cannot forgive Ron for his decision. But, maybe; just maybe, the most–important person of all — Grapes — has seen the light. Knowing Don even superficially, as I do, there’s no chance on Earth he’d have turned away MacLean for wishing to observe and honor his 90th birthday.


Given that I have contact phone numbers for each man, you may wonder: Why not just call one or both and find out the truth? There are several reasons. First of all, and quite frankly, it’s none of my goddamned business what they have chosen as a path forward. Also, I did enough inadvertent damage to Ron by publishing a blog in the summer with really bad intelligence about a personnel shake–up at Hockey Night that included MacLean, Kevin Bieksa and Jennifer Botterill. None of whom deserved any such treatment. For that, I have apologized personally to Ron… and will again today. I felt so horrible after writing that blog, even if MacLean and Cherry would be shocked by the person who shared the “information”. But, my heart truly believes that hockey’s most–famous TV tandem has found a layer of peace from which to draw. Neither man is getting younger. At some point, one will pass away, leaving any personal reparations to the children of the deceased. Hardly an ideal circumstance.

Neither am I suggesting their friendship will attain the incredible heights it once did; I saw, with my own eyes, how MacLean and Cherry virtually shadowed one another while on the road for Saturday night Maple Leafs games; then throughout the lengthy playoff slog. But, Ron and Don are Canadian institutions. Coach’s Corner has been off the air now for parts of five National Hockey League seasons. That, in my view, is enough time for the healing process to prevail. For each man to preclude heart–wrenching regret once a death inevitably occurs.

It is also high time for Canadians to get off their lofty perch and give MacLean a break. Yeah, perhaps he erred. But, again, look at the dreadful choices presented to him by his employer. How many of us would have sacrificed our job and livelihood? Sadly, Ron knew that he couldn’t keep his position with Hockey Night… and his friendship with Cherry. Imagine having to be placed in such a position. The self–righteous among us have excoriated Ron for nearly half–a–decade. Without having to expose their own skeletons. Nothing in our world today is easier, or so cheap, as ripping another person anonymously on social media. Everyone has had his or her say on the matter. It is now in the distant past. So distant, that I believe the subjects, themselves, have come to a peaceful conclusion.

Isn’t it time for all of us to do the same?

EMAIL: HOWARDLBERGER@GMAIL.COM

15 comments on “Ron and Don: Together Again?

  1. Both Ron and Don were great together just like Bonnie and Clyde and Ron and Don are ? Canadian wish I could still meet Don cherry ?

  2. The HNIC panel continues to be terrific. It was time for Grapes to go. If you want to talk about expiry dates, let’s talk about Chris Cuthbert and Craig Simpson. Time to move on.

  3. When Don Cherry was first fired I was shocked that Ron McLean did not defend him. After thinking about it I decided Don Cherry did not deserve Ron’s defence.
    Cherry is a big boy & responsible for his own opinion. Period.

  4. I get it, Ron Maclean is likely a decent guy etc. and many have grown up watching him on HNIC. However, he is truly unwatchable now and its time for him to move on even if the Cherry incident was 4 or so years ago. He seems to be trying to show how smart and witty he is and its downright annoying.

  5. Good for Don Cherry reaching 90 years of age. I’m tired of Ron Maclean and his act. It’s time for Elliotte Friedman to host HNIC. Friedman would be excellent. And he’s much more than an insider. He’d be good at interviewing and running a panel.

  6. And by the way, the CBC did not need to trot Ron out to make a statement and take the heat. He is a contract worker just like Don. If one of my co workers is fired, am I supposed to justify the decision, or is it up to the employer? Ron should have said nothing. And for all the critics out there, when was the last time you quit your job because a coworker was fired? This is all about some mysterious code that exists only in hockey but not in the real world.

  7. The blame for this all of this going down rests with CBC. Don has had a great career and was once one of the most relevant voices in hockey. When something happened on the ice, everyone wanted to know what Don thought on Saturday night. But that was a long time ago. The CBC kept him on the air long past his best before date. His thoughts rambled like a puck ricocheting off the glass often leaving Ron looking at the camera and shrugging. It was inevitable he would at some point go offside and he did. I don’t think he meant it exactly how it came out but it came out, leaving Ron holding the bag.

  8. And as soon as a little trial balloon of goodwill is inflated, along comes good ol’ culture warrior extraordinaire Joe Warmington to pop it with his always sharp claws. According to him, “those in attendance told me MacLean “crashed” the family party he wasn’t invited to and brought a birthday card for his long-time pal.” I don’t want to link to it because it strikes me mostly of stoking the negative fires in a personal (but public) falling out.
    So according to joe dropping by at a 90th birthday party with a card is “crashing” as opposed to trying to make a peace offering in a damaged relationship. Posting to twitter DOES seem a bit self-serving though.
    I hope Don & Ron can set aside their egos and reconcile their relationship to whatever it can be before it’s too late. Regret is a heavy burden when added to loss and sadness, and lingers long after the sadness fades.

    1. I like Warmington, as a person and a writer. But, I’m disappointed he felt it necessary to put a negative spin on this. If Ron “crashed” a party, he did it with all good intentions.

    2. Well said hope they rekindle the friendship and one day at a time tks miss those guys especially don!!!!!!??????

  9. Howard thanks for covering this event and giving us the inside scoop on what’s really gone on.

    Keep up the great work. Your blog is enjoyable.

    John W

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