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Tuesday, May 6, 2008

ESPN adds Cherry to beef up NHL playoff coverage

By WILLIAM HOUSTON

Don Cherry is taking his commentary and wardrobe south of the border, where he will make regular appearances on ESPN during the NHL’s Eastern Conference final.

“I guess they like my jackets,” the Hockey Night in Canada personality said yesterday.

Cherry and Hockey Night host Ron MacLean will leave the CBC’s Toronto studio for the road to cover the Philadelphia Flyers-Pittsburgh Penguins series, which will start on Friday.

Cherry will do live hits by remote for ESPN’s SportsCentre at the end of each Flyers-Penguins game.

“When I’m finished with the wrap-up on Hockey Night, I’ll do the ESPN spot,” Cherry said. “Sherali [Najak, the executive producer of Hockey Night ] will help set it up for me.”

Cherry has plenty of critics, but ESPN’s move to hire the Canadian-based commentator speaks to his popularity and profile among NHL fans on both sides of the border.

“We’re thrilled,” said Mark Gross, ESPN’s senior vice-president of studio production. “He’s a great personality and being able to incorporate him into our hockey coverage is a nice addition.”

The U.S. sports channel also plans to use Cherry during the Stanley Cup final.

Adding Cherry to beef up ESPN’s playoff coverage will restart speculation about ESPN2 returning as a carrier of NHL games next season. Gross said that decision will be made at a management level above his.

In the conference finals, Cherry picks the Penguins over the Flyers and the Detroit Red Wings to defeat the Dallas Stars.

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