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Chris Nilan, Stu Grimson respond to Don Cherry’s comments

Last night on "Coach's Corner" during Hockey Night in Canada's season opening broadcast, Don Cherry delivered his first sermon of the season:

Angrily discussing the changing philosophy on physicality in hockey and calling out three former NHL enforcers as "turncoats" and "hypocrites" for speaking out against fighting.

One of the three ex-players whom Cherry called out was Chris Nilan, who appeared on the FAN 590's Brady and Lang show this morning (listen to the 11-minute interview here) to respond to the comments made on Thursday night.

Nilan pointed out that he's been friends with Cherry for a long time, even bringing up a moment during the 1989 Stanley Cup Final in Calgary when Grapes kissed him on the cheek and told him he loved him. But he was angry with Cherry's comments.

After responding on his Twitter page on Thursday night, Nilan defiantly stood up for himself against Cherry, saying, "I feel he's uninformed, and honestly, I feel he owes me an apology on Hockey Night in Canada next week and Coach's Corner."

And Nilan wasn't the only target of Cherry's that took to the airwaves on Friday to respond to his comments.

First, here's more Nilan from FAN 590:

"Now, if I have an opinion on something, and he doesn't agree with it, to call me a hypocrite and a puke is totally uncalled for. I could see if he has opinion about me and I said the things that he insinuates I said. Now, at no time have I ever said that alcoholism and drug addiction is linked to fighting. I've done ... I just said the movie 'Last Gladiator' ... I've done newspaper articles, you won't see it in print. You won't see it on any radio broadcast I've ever done. And you won't see it on any TV or interview I've ever done on TV. So he's obviously uninformed about what he's talking about. As far as a puke for saying I didn't want fighting in the National Hockey League, I've never said that.

"I'll clarify my statements I made about fighting once again: That I believe that the National Hockey League is in a temperance movement. They really don't like fighting, and I believe they don't want it in the game. And I've said, that if they don't want it in the game, why don't they just take it out. I've never said I wanted it out. I never said I'm against fighting. I said if they're that much against it, they put the instigator rule in, they get linesmen who get in and try and break up fights before they start, the linesmen do that because they feel like getting punched in the head today or do they do it because the league asked them to do it because they don't wanna see the fighting on TV."

"Now, if the league does take it out, and they realize it affects their bottom line, which is dollars and sense, then how in God's name do they put it back in?

"I've never said I don't want fighting in the game. I've always said there is nothing wrong with two guys dropping their gloves and going at it. Now, do I believe there's something wrong when a guy calls a guy a week before a game and says, 'hey, we're gonna go next Tuesday night', I think that's total [expletive] and it's foolishness. Do I believe a spontaneous fight that happens after an incident in a game where either one of your players is attacked by someone or given a cheap shot by someone, or you yourself receive a cheap shot or someone calls you out and asks you to fight ... do I think there's anything wrong with that? I don't think there's anything wrong with that whatsoever. It's within the rules of the game.

"I don't think they should take fighting out, and I never said it. So what he says to me, and about me last night, totally caught me off guard and again, I feel he's uninformed, and honestly, I feel he owes me an apology on Hockey Night in Canada next week and Coach's Corner."

When asked if he doesn't get an apology from Cherry if he might potentially sue, Nilan said he doesn't agree with lawsuits such as that and won't go down that route.

Despite Nilan's claims he never said fighting should be out of the game, he was quoted last month by the QMI agency calling for a ban.

"The NHL should ban fighting because it's no longer a factor in the games."

"Fighters these days can even be called up before the games," he said. "Come on, it makes no sense."

But five days after being quotes by the QMI Agency, Nilan went back to the position he was defending Thursday morning in an interview with Red Fisher of the Montreal Gazette:

"I'm not sayin' take fightin' out of hockey," Nilan said. "I'm not sayin' I want fighting out of hockey. What I am sayin' is that (NHL commissioner Gary) Bettman can take it out if he likes ... that he might as well take it out because it's not being used the way it once was. It's so different now.

"If I really believed these guys were screwed up from getting punched in the head all the time, I'd say so," Nilan added. "That isn't the case, though."

Meanwhile, Stu Grimson appeared on the FAN590's Jeff Blair Show (podcast here) and wasn't as angry as Nilan, instead the "Grim Reaper", as he was known during his NHL days, shrugged the comments off and completely discounted Cherry's position in the world of pontificating.

"It's hard to get too jazzed about this because I think Don's mutterings are kind of akin to that of an old uncle that nobody takes seriously anymore. I'm not going ot get too fired up about it.

"Despite the fact that Don's credibility is ... I don't know if he had a great deal of credibility, any he did have certainly eroded today, that's at least my view. But if you're going to come out with language that strong and say things that just completely without any basis in fact or reality, I think you have to answer for it."

Grimson said he'll go on TSN's Off the Record on Friday and any other media format to defend himself and further the discussion; that discussion being one that he doesn't believe Cherry is being a helping member of.

"If he wants to be part of the debate, I don't think name-calling and singling folks out as 'pukes' and 'hypocrites' is really a helpful way to drive the discussion and maybe one day help to resolve the issue. Frnakly, I'm not sure why Don would even be considered part of the debate. Here's a guy that never played a day in the NHL. I don't know that's he's got any experience playing this role over a stretch of time. What is it that provides him with this extensive background to be the voice of authority in this area?"

Don Cherry is nothing other than pure entertainment. Don Cherry is shock broadcasting as much as anything. The only reason I think he's got the kind of follwing he does, he really is unchecked in the way he's able to broadcast his viewpoint. He gets on, he sounds off. Nobody's there to hold him accountable, least of all Ron MacLean. I think there's a lot of folks who find that entertaining, but take it for what it is."

I almost get the sense a lot of folks tune in wondering No. 1, what he's doing to say next and wondering No. 2, is this gonna be the comment he makes that's finally going to be his undoing. He tends to kinda tow close to that line and I think there will come a point he eventually steps over that line and CBC says, 'You know what, it might just be time to shut the old uncle down.'"

Grimson also opened a Twitter account on Friday, with his first Tweet asking Cherry what articles quoted him saying he wanted fighting banned and that the enforcer's life causes post-hockey addictions.

Nilan, unlike Grimson, was genuinely hurt by Cherry's comments and they took him by surprise considering their relationship in the past.

"Here's someone who I thought was a friend and who treats me like that, that's what really bothers me," said Nilan.

"Obviously, I'm not a friend of his and I thought I was."

UPDATE: Don Cherry was on Hockey Central on the FAN590 on Friday and was unapologetic for what he said about Nilan, Thomson and Grimson during "Coach's Corner" on Thursday night.

"That's my story and I'm sticking to it."

"I never reget anything I say on 'Coach's Corner' ever," said Cherry. Though, he did say he regretted calling the three ex-enforcers "pukes".

He stood by his claims that Nilan, Thomson and Grimson turned, as Cherry puts it, against his brothers in the game by calling for fighting to be taken out of hockey.

Cherry said that what brought on his rant was seeing an episode of TSN's "The Sports Reporters" and the link was made there between the tragic deaths of Boogaard, Rypien and Belak to fighting.

He also said he doesn't plan to call Nilan after a public apology was requested.

"That's the way I feel. I got a little carried away, but that's the way I am."

Meanwhile, check out Y! Sports' Sunaya Sapurji who interviewed Jim Thomson about taking fighting out of hockey.

Photo credit: Getty Images

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