Don Cherry talking about the Hurricanes again

Don Cherry is talking about the Carolina Hurricanes again.

Hint: Don’t expect any apologies.

Don Cherry, announcer on CBC’s “Hockey Night in Canada,” is greeted by fans as he arrives for Game 2 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup finals between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Detroit Red Wings in Detroit, Sunday, May 31, 2009. Carlos Osorio ASSOCIATED PRESS

With the Canes set to play in the Eastern Conference finals of the Stanley Cup playoffs, Cherry took to the air Saturday on Hockey Night in Canada to call Canes fans “frontrunners,” more or less dismissing the record playoff crowds at PNC Arena and the excitement built by the Canes’ playoff run.

In February, Cherry used his “Coach’s Corner” segment on HNIC to blast the Canes’ Storm Surge postgame celebrations, calling the Canes a “bunch of jerks.” He was back at it Saturday, pouring more gas on the fire.

“They know it’s the wrong thing to do or they’d do it in the playoff,” Cherry said of the Surge. “And these people that are in there now, now they’re winning, (are) front-running fans as far as I’m concerned. That’s what they are, front-running fans.”

When Cherry took time to take a breath, HNIC host Ron MacLean said the Canes’ success, with such feel-good stories as Hamilton the pig, is hard not to embrace.

Before MacLean could finish, Cherry broke in: “I don’t embrace nothing. I said they look like a bunch of jerks ... being a fish on the water, a bowling ball. It’s professional hockey, and no sport in the world does it except them and it comes down from the top, ‘I want to entertain the fan.’

“The fans there now, the 17 and 18 thousand, they’re frontrunners, they’re there because they win, not because they act like fish. OK?”

A Carolina Hurricanes fan holds a sign saying she loves this “Bunch of Jerks,” a reference to the team during the second period of an NHL hockey game played against the New York Rangers in Raleigh, N.C., Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019. Canadian broadcaster Don Cherry said the Hurricanes were a “Bunch of jerks,” for the postgame celebrations that the team does when it wins at home. She also wears a tee shirt expressing the same feelings that the team has recently started selling in response to the comment. Chris Seward AP

The Canes, from owner Tom Dundon to the players and coaches, said they were not offended when Cherry first went off on the Surge. Dundon said Cherry’s comments only brought more attention to the franchise and, yes, “Bunch of Jerks” t-shirts sold quickly.

During the playoffs, the Canes players have raised their sticks and taken bows after home-ice wins. No home-run trots or Thor hammer strikes.

But, wait. Cherry did come close to a compliment Saturday. Watching a clip that showed “JERK” displayed in the PNC Arena seats before a game, he let slip, “That’s pretty good.”

If he had looked closer, he might have seen the four letters highlighted by “Bunch of Jerks” white towels.

In more than 30 years at The N&O, Chip Alexander has covered the N.C. State, UNC, Duke and East Carolina beats, and now is in his 11th season on the Carolina Hurricanes beat. Alexander, who has won numerous writing awards at the state and national level, covered the Hurricanes’ move to North Carolina in 1997 and was a part of The N&O’s coverage of the Canes’ 2006 Stanley Cup run.