Don Cherry comments draw legal threat from NHL trio

Three former NHL players criticized by Don Cherry on a recent episode of Coach's Corner have called the comments he made about them "baseless and slanderous" and are considering legal recourse.

Stu Grimson, Chris Nilan and Jim Thomson were called "turncoats" and "hypocrites" for their respective stances on fighting in hockey by Cherry, the bombastic star of the popular Hockey Night In Canada intermission segment.

In response, the trio released a statement early Tuesday through the Nashville offices of Grimson, now a lawyer:

"During CBC's broadcast of Coach's Corner on Oct. 6, 2011, Don Cherry inserted himself into a prominent debate involving the recent deaths of three (3) NHL players, drug addiction, alcohol abuse and mental illness. In doing so, Mr. Cherry targeted the above-named individuals, some of whom have suffered from such diseases, as a result of views they previously expressed. Mr. Cherry's comments were more than inappropriate; they were baseless and slanderous. Furthermore, Mr. Cherry's subsequent attempt to qualify his comments on Oct. 8, 2011, was entirely ineffectual. Mr. Cherry's conduct throughout has demonstrated a complete lack of decency.

"In light of the damaging and inflammatory nature of Mr. Cherry's comments, Messrs. Grimson, Nilan and Thomson are considering further recourse."

Cherry made the comments about the trio after he addressed the suspensions doled out by new NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan, himself a former player, calling them "too hard."

"It's ridiculous what they've done. The players will not hit — guaranteed," Cherry said before turning his attention to the topic of fighting in the NHL, and why some players who served as on-ice enforcers no longer support it.

Regarding Grimson, Nilan and Thomson, Cherry said, "I'm really disgusted."

"What [former NHL enforcer] Georges Laraque said about them: 'A bunch of pukes' … You guys, you were fighters and now you don't want guys that make the same living you did."

The CBC issued a statement Saturday saying it does not agree with the views Cherry expressed on Thursday’s HNIC broadcast.

Kirstine Stewart, the CBC's executive vice-president of English services, issued a statement Saturday to reaffirm the network's stance on Cherry and that any opinion expressed by him is his and his alone.

"While we support his right to voice that opinion, we do not share his position," Stewart said.

Asked Saturday by Coach's Corner host Ron MacLean if he had regrets about the season-opening segment two nights earlier, Cherry replied: "No, no. Maybe one — with the puke stuff and kids listening.

"That's rude and I shouldn't say it."

With files from The Canadian Press