Get ready for HNIC

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:09 AM ET

Don Cherry would've been devastated if his flashy new wardrobe and a year's worth of Coach's Corner rants were relegated to the Air Canada Centre parking lot this Saturday.

But with a tentative deal reached early yesterday morning in the seven-week lockout at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the 52nd season of Hockey Night In Canada should air with Cherry without disruption.

"Everybody knows who the stars and the money-makers are for the CBC," Cherry said with a laugh yesterday. "I have my new suits all ready to go, and hopefully they haven't gone out of style (since the lockout).

"Seriously, I don't think they could have done a game without (announcers, as they did with CFL football) by using rink-level microphones. Bobby Clarke took care of that with Andy van Hellemond a few years ago (when the Flyers captain shocked a TV audience with an expletive-filled rant at the ref)."

Everyone on the HNIC crew was breathing easier yesterday, hopeful the deal is ratified in the next 48 hours to assure Saturday's show is aired.

Last weekend began with no deal in sight, jeopardizing the Toronto-Montreal game set to kick off the new season. Unlike previous CBC disputes, Cherry, Ron MacLean, Bob Cole and Harry Neale all belong to the same union and couldn't have crossed a picket line at the ACC even if they wanted.

"The most important thing was that everyone came to their senses and realized how much damage would be done if these games didn't get on the CBC," HNIC commentator Elliotte Friedman said.

Sources have said CBC management was not prepared to confront the Canadian Media Guild members this Saturday. Plans were afoot to use a French-language RDS television feed and either just show the game with extraneous crowd noise or augment it with radio commentary. A double header with the Vancouver Canucks at the Edmonton Oilers likely would have been pre-empted by Minnesota-Phoenix.

A tentative deal was reached with the 5,500 members of the guild after the Liberal government asked both sides to meet in Ottawa for continued negotiations.


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