Tuesday June 7th, 2016

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Hockey Night in Canada faces changes ahead of the 2016-17 season, but it won't lose its biggest draw.

Don Cherry, the star of Coach's Corner, has agreed to a multi-year deal with Rogers Sportsnet, according to The Canadian Press.

Loved by millions—and hated by millions more—the bluntly outspoken Cherry is undeniably the most iconic figure in Canadian broadcasting. Even at 82, he remains the most vital part of HNIC, the one must-see element of a program that has struggled to find a sweet spot since being taken over by Rogers prior to the 2014-15 season.

It's fair to say that his bombastic style and dogmatic adherence to the code of old-time hockey doesn't hold sway the way it did even 10 years ago. His "I was right" schtick has gotten tired. And his fractured syntax and willful malapropisms madden those who'd prefer a more erudite discussion of the game.

But Cherry dissects the game in a way that speaks to both the guy watching from his couch with a six-pack and the hockey lifer alike. Walk into a bar, or an NHL press box, when his first-intermission segment comes on and the huddle around the television will tell you all you need to know about his standing in the sport.

GALLERY: Don Cherry's Fashion Statements

You don't have to agree with him, but when Cherry talks, you have to listen. In an era when viral is the currency of the realm, no one in hockey lights up social media the way he can with a single off-the-cuff remark.

There's an element of risk, of course. Cherry has embarrassed the network before and he most certainly will again. But right or wrong, he owns it. And when he has to back down, as he did a couple years back after throwing a trio of former enforcers under the bus, he does it with integrity.

Signing him to the extension then was a no-brainer for Rogers. Now if they're really smart, they'll restore Cherry and his long-time partner Ron MacLean to their former position of prominence on the broadcast.

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