Cherry, Rogers to talk contract in April

More than 500 regular-season games will be broadcast across 13 networks next season, with as many as seven games shown every Saturday night.

Now that we know how many NHL games will be televised and on which channels to find them, one of the biggest questions on Canadian hockey fans’ minds regarding the 12-year Rogers deal is this: Which personalities will be bringing us all that hockey? And, more to the point, are the jobs of Canadian icons Ron MacLean and Don Cherry safe?

“I’m a big fan of Don and Ron. I’ve spoken to both of them. They’re currently employed by the CBC, so we’ve had some conversations but not full conversations. It’s a little early,” said Scott Moore, president of Sportsnet and NHL, Rogers Media. “We’ll be in a position to announce all of our hockey commentators by early May. You can expect by end of April we’ll have people under contract.”

Cherry, who celebrates his 80th birthday Wednesday, has maintained he has no desire to retire. When the Rogers-NHL rights deal was announced in November, he stated in no uncertain terms that he’d like “Coach’s Corner” – his and MacLean’s popular Hockey Night in Canada spot – to remain as is.

“If you’re No. 1, why would you fool around like that,” Cherry said on air. “I know I’m good. I didn’t fall off a turnip truck. I know everybody watches, so all I’m saying is take it easy. Don’t try to ruin a good thing. Just leave us alone and we’ll be just as good next year.”

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said he considers both MacLean and Cherry friends but that he would leave the television producing in the hands of Rogers.

Cherry frequently appears on Rogers radio and co-hosts “Grapeline” with Brian Williams on Sportsnet 590 The Fan. The former player and coach joined Hockey Night in Canada full-time in 1981 and worked under Moore when the Rogers exec was with CBC.

Moore told Sportsnet 590 The Fan that he signed off on MacLean’s last deal when he was at CBC and repeatedly offered Cherry a lifetime contract during his tenure there.

“[Cherry] always said, ‘No, I don’t want a lifetime contract. I want a year-to-year contract so I have something to complain about,’” Moore recalled. “We’ll continue to talk to them, and I’d love to see them back.”

During Tuesday’s unveiling of Rogers’ plans for the broadcasting of 500-plus games in 2014-15, Moore pointed out that none of Sportsnet’s or CBC’s on-air commentators were in attendance (granted, many were working the Maple Leafs-Panthers game at the time). That is because the contracts and assignments of the on-air personalities have yet to be finalized.

“I would guess we’ll have a huge stage full of the best hockey talent in the country,” Moore said Wednesday morning. “People are as passionate about who brings them the sports as they are about what they’re watching. But what people aren’t truly grasping yet is that we have the ability to put together an all-star broadcast team. We have great people here at Sportsnet, we have great people at CBC, and we get to bring them all together.”

But there’s a catch.

“The bad thing about an all-star team,” Moore said, “is that not everyone gets to play the power play.”

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