Former NHL players Stu Grimson, Chris Nilan and Jim Thomson are considering legal action over Don Cherry’s rant about fighting in hockey.
They issued a joint statement early Tuesday morning calling Cherry’s comments “damaging and inflammatory” and his attempts to qualify them “entirely ineffectual.”
Cherry singled out the three men as “pukes”, “hypocrites” and “turncoats” for speaking out against fighting in the sport during the first “Coach’s Corner” segment of the season on CBC’s “Hockey Night in Canada” last Thursday.
He accused the men of not wanting current players to make a living as enforcers as they did and criticized them for linking drug and alcohol abuse to that role.
On a subsequent show Saturday. Cherry expressed some remorse over using the word “pukes,” but that doesn’t satisfy the former players.
“We’re considering all alternatives including legal recourse, of course, given the nature of Don’s comments,” Grimson told The Canadian Press on Tuesday from Nashville.
“We are curious to know what remedies we have, if any, under the law probably in Canada simply because that’s where most of these events took place. We’re just at a preliminary stage right now investigating things like that.”
Grimson is a lawyer with the Tennessee firm Kay, Griffin, Enkema and Colbert, which specializes in corporate litigation and intellectual property. The law firm issued the statement.
Grimson says he will seek Canadian expertise on this country’s defamation laws and at this point, couldn’t say whether any legal action would be directed at Cherry or the CBC or both.
“”I obviously don’t practise in Canada,” Grimson said. “It’s a prudent step at this point to learn the landscape in that area.”
The three men take exception to Cherry’s comments for different reasons.
Since Cherry’s rant, Grimson denied in media interviews that he ever said fighting should be removed from hockey, or that the enforcer’s job causes substance abuse. Grimson, whose nickname during his career was “The Grim Reaper,” also says he doesn’t suffer from addiction to drugs and alcohol.
Nilan has been open about his addiction issues, but doesn’t blame them on his job as an on-ice policeman during his playing career. Thomson, however, says fighting should be banned from hockey and does blame his years of fighting in the NHL for his addiction.
“Part of the irony in all this and some of what this group finds most objectionable is, Don Cherry has made a pretty handsome living doing ‘Rock’em Sock’em’ videos featuring like guys like Jim Thomson, Chris Nilan and Stu Grimson and then at a future moment in time, when we no longer serve his monetary purposes, he elects to toss us under the bus simply because one or two in our group happen to have a slightly different view than him on issues in this area,” Grimson said.
“That’s truly objectionable and you might even ask yourself ‘Isn’t that a little bit hypocritical?'”
The statement wasn’t issued to elicit a full apology from Cherry, Grimson said.
“We wouldn’t turn down an apology, but I don’t know that that ends it then and there, given his comments and his befuddled attempt to qualify, clarify his comments,” he explained. “I don’t know that that would end it.”
CBC lawyers weren’t on high alert Tuesday.
“Obviously we’re aware of the statement, but there is no lawsuit,” media spokesman Chuck Thompson said from Toronto. “They’re just considering recourse, so there’s nothing in front of us.”
He referred to a statement issued Saturday by Kirstine Stewart, the CBC’s executive vice-president of English services, stating that while the network supported Cherry’s right to an opinion, it didn’t agree with his views. Stewart said then that player safety is a top priority for CBC and it supports the NHL’s initiatives to keep players safe.
“I’ve spoken to Stu Grimson on a couple of occasions over the weekend and he appreciated the fact we did reach out to them with the statement we did put out,” Thompson said. “I certainly don’t speak for the three players, but I can assure you they were given a heads-up on where we stood on the comments Don made Thursdaynight.”