TORONTO - Don Cherry has come to the defence of "Coach's Corner" broadcast partner Ron MacLean on Twitter after comments by MacLean on a "Hockey Night in Canada" broadcast concerning a French referee started a social media controversy.
MacLean suffered a backlash on Twitter when he suggested a French referee shouldn't have worked the Montreal Canadiens' series-clinching 4-3 win over Tampa Bay on Tuesday.
"I read in the paper where Ron MacLean was supposed to have said the Quebec referee doing the Montreal-Tampa Bay game was not qualified," Cherry posted on his Twitter account in a multi-part response to the controversy. "He did not say that at all. Check it out. In actual fact, he was trying to protect the ref. It is ironic that Ron MacLean would be perceived as Anti-French when in reality he loves Quebec. He speaks french, loves multiculturalism, bilingualism and all that stuff and refers to Quebec as "La Belle Province' and always shows Montreal at it's best in the opening of our shows. Life is strange.
"I remember a coach saying after a game in Toronto, when a referee from Toronto refereed the game, he said and I quote "No way a referee from Toronto should referee a game with the Toronto Maple Leafs." You know what happened? Nothing. You know why? Nobody cared."
While MacLean did not ever say he thought referee Francois St. Laurent was unqualified to work the game, he suggested the NHL used a French referee to send a signal to Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper, who felt him team lost Sunday's Game because of a bad call from an official.
MacLean added while he thought St. Laurent ''maybe shouldn't have been put into Game 4, I'd have no problem with Game 5, 6 or 7.''
Some took MacLean's comments as being anti-French, which the veteran broadcaster strongly denied.
Later in the CBC broadcast, MacLean said he was sorry, adding it is ''divisive any time you become about French and English in our country.''
MacLean explained he wouldn't send an Alberta referee in to do an Alberta game had an Alberta official been involved in a tough Game 3.
''It's not about French Canadians, certainly not about French, and that's what I kinda triggered and it's easy to step into that kind of mistake," MacLean said.