Don Cherry has gotten away with promoting violence in hockey for too long when he should be leading the charge to stop hits to the head, says a renowned neurosurgeon, who came out swinging a day after calling the Canadian hockey icon a “negative influence” on the game.

“We’ve been too gentle with him over the years. We’ve allowed him to change the culture of hockey,” Dr. Charles Tator told the Toronto Star yesterday after returning from Regina, where he told a conference on concussions that the rock ’em, sock ’em type of hockey Cherry preaches — and markets wildly popular videos of — only adds to the injury problem.

“And so now we have to speak up against this type of hockey. And if we could get him to change his message — if he came out with a safety message, if he came out strongly for safety and the elimination of hits to the head, then that would go a long way,” said Tator, founder of the Think First Canada injury prevention program.

Calls to Cherry’s home were not returned. Tator, who sees kids in his office every week with injuries from the sport, says he’s hopeful the popular commentator will change his fighting ways.

But not everyone agrees Cherry’s off-ice antics contribute to on-ice dangers. Even Tator gives Cherry credit for helping out with a campaign years ago to prevent neck injuries.

A statement from Hockey Night In Canada called Cherry a “leader in teaching tough, smart hockey” who “promotes respect amongst players at every level. Everyone who has watched Don over the years knows this, and any indication otherwise is misguided and a short-sighted misrepresentation of the facts.”