WARMINGTON: On this day, Canada remembers

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Two years ago today came the call I will never forget.

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“Well, they fired me,” was that familiar voice on the other end of the cellphone. “I won’t be on Coach’s Corner anymore.”

I was at the Royal Canadian Military Institute with Brian Patterson of the Ontario Safety League, a retired Canadian Armed Forces captain who works non-stop to help veterans on every day of the year.

This was Remembrance Day and in the room was Charles Scot-Brown, who at 96 was a living legend who had been a part of the June 6, 1944 D-Day assault and later helped liberate concentration camps.

As soon as the veterans heard what Rogers Sportsnet had done in reaction to Cherry’s Saturday night “you people” should wear poppies comments, they   arranged for me to go into a room at the University Ave. club to write the column on Grapes being sacked after 38 years on TV.

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Don Cherry is pictured in Mississauga on Tuesday, November 9, 2021.
Don Cherry is pictured in Mississauga on Tuesday, November 9, 2021. Photo by Ernest Doroszuk /Toronto Sun

“There’s no one who supported veterans more than Cherry,” said one veteran. “I can’t believe they would do this on Remembrance Day.”

Don was worried his dismissal would take focus from the day and wondered if we could wait to get out the news, but I knew it would not stay secret for long. A few minutes later we brought out the story and Cherry’s fear came true: It became the biggest story in the country.

Cherry hasn’t done Coach’s Corner on Hockey Night again. But he did his first version of one Tuesday with the Toronto Sun. We talked about poppies, the dress code of today’s NHL players and the big Connor McDavid goal.

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One thing interesting two years later is Cherry is in a reflective mood. He wishes he’d said “everybody” instead of “you people” but feels he has been proven right because people wearing poppies these days is a rare sight. The coach said he’s happy doing his Don Cherry Grapevine podcast with his son Tim, daughter Cindy and grandson Del and while he knows it’s not Hockey Night in Canada, he approaches it the same way.

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And no, he does not harbour any grudges toward his sidekick Ron MacLean, who managed to stick handle his way to keeping his career going while his 35-year friend’s was over. Two years later, Cherry wants the focus put back on the veterans.

Brian Patterson, left, receives his Minister of Veterans Affairs Commendation from Lawrence MacAulay on Nov. 9, 2021 in Ottawa.
Brian Patterson, left, receives his Minister of Veterans Affairs Commendation from Lawrence MacAulay on Nov. 9, 2021 in Ottawa. Photo by Lawrence MacAulay /Twitter

On Nov. 11, 2021, I will be with Patterson again at the Old City Hall cenotaph with Mayor John Tory and the 48th Highlanders. There will be congratulations for Patterson for receiving the Minister of Veterans Affairs Commendation from Lawrence MacAulay in Ottawa on Tuesday for his endless work with veterans.

In Toronto, there’s not always a sea of poppies evident on the streets but Patterson said in downtown Ottawa he noticed “75% of people” were wearing one. Many will be wearing their poppies at numerous ceremonies back on today after being virtual last year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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One thing that will be different is Charles Scot-Brown won’t be there. Sadly, he died Sept. 18, just weeks after his 98th birthday.

“This will be the first Remembrance Day Brown won’t be attending in 90 years,” said Patterson. “Other than the years he was away at war he attended every ceremony with his father as just a kid.”

  1. Minister of National Defence Anita Anand lays a wreath at the cenotaph during a Remembrance Day ceremony at Chris Vokes Memorial Park in Oakville, Ont., Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021.

    Remembrance Day ceremonies planned across GTA

  2. A Canadian Armed Forces member places a poppy over the Altar of Remembrance following the Canadian Commemorative Ceremony honouring those who died during the Battle of Hong Kong and the Second World War in Hong Kong's Sai Wan War Cemetery on Dec. 4, 2016.

    ENDURING SYMBOL: The poppy turns 100

  3. Remembrance Day ceremony at the East York Civic Centre cenotaph in Toronto on November 11, 2020.

    EDITORIAL: Why Remembrance Day matters so much

People will be remembering him today and all of his fellow brave troops who went to war to protect our freedom.

Lest we forget. On this day, Canada remembers.

jwarmington@postmedia.com

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