Don Cherry has stirred up another hockey controversy with comments he made on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada on Thursday.
Cherry used his "Coach's Corner" segment to blast people using the off-season deaths of three former NHLers as evidence that fighting should be eliminated from the game.
"You people that are against fighting, you should be ashamed of yourselves," Cherry said. "You took advantage of that to make your point on fighting. You should be ashamed of yourself for doing something like that."
Cherry then singled out three former players who made careers out of fighting on the ice for being among those trying to link the deaths with on-ice thuggery.
"The ones that I am really disgusted with ... are the bunch of pukes that fought before: Stu Grimson, Chris Nilan and Jim Thomson. (They say) 'Oh, the reason that they're drinking, (taking) drugs and alcoholics is because they're fighting.' You turncoats. You hypocrites," Cherry said.
"If there's one thing I'm not it's a hypocrite. You guys were fighters, and now you don't want guys to make the same living you did."
Grimson, Nilan and Thomson all appeared on TSN's "Off the Record" on Friday, and all three took exception with the allegations made by Cherry.
"I don't think you should get rid of fighting," said Nilan, contradicting Cherry's accusation.
"Although I do think there's a contradiction there with what the NHL is doing," he said commenting on the league's recent crackdown on headshots.
"Is it because fighters are less important to the NHL that it's okay to get punched in the head but when it comes down to hitting someone with the shoulder in the head or an elbow it's no good?" he asked.
Nilan also dealt directly with Cherry's accusations.
"I'm offended myself and I've never, ever attributed my problem, drugs and alcohol, with the fact that I played the role of enforcer for all those years," explained Nilan. "I've never said that it was in any way intertwined with the deaths of those three guys, which is three very separate incidents."
Grimson also denied saying that fighting should be taken out of the game and challenged Cherry to find a story that attributes that view to him.
"The role of the enforcer in the NHL that's a hard role to play, that's a hard job to do," said Grimson. "It might be the toughest in all of pro sports, but simply because it's a hard job doesn't mean we do away with it.
"I challenge Don to point to the news article - or any other kind of journalism - where that comment is attributed to me," continued Grimson. "Nothing could be further from the truth. If you're going to say things like that on national television, show me the article where Chris (Nilan) or I said something like that. And if you can't prove that, let's hear an apology from Don...because that's pretty strong language, pretty offensive language. I'm awfully offended."
Thomson, unlike Grimson and Nilan, actually did say that he believes fighting should be taken out of the game.
"I've been saying it for three years," he said. "That's how I got into this lifestyle of living the wrong way with drugs and alcohol.
"What I'm saying to Don Cherry is that if we're going to protect the kids from themselves, let's take the violence out."
He did however take issue with Cherry labeling him a hypocrite.
"He's the hypocrite," said Thomson. "You have no idea the dark nights I stayed there being addicted to drugs and alcohol. I will tell you personally for me that the role of an enforcer brought me to that."
Nilan, like Thomson, has been very open about his own battles with substance abuse but said in his case that is had nothing to do with his career as a hockey fighter.
As for Cherry's comments, Nilan, while talking to TSN Radio 1050's Bryan Hayes earlier on Friday, also said it made him angry to hear that from someone he considered a friend, especially because he considers the allegation untrue.
"The National Hockey League has made it very difficult for fighters to fight these days. There's a temperance movement. I believe the NHL wants fighting out of the game...I said, if they really want fighting out of the game, they should take it out of the game.
"I don't believe that ... I have no problem whatsoever with two guys dropping their gloves, responding to a challenge from one of the guys, or a teammate responding to something that happened to one of his teammates ... I don't believe they should take fighting out."