By Rob Ficiur
This week Don Cherry was in trouble again. Monday, an article entitled Don Cherry
Sacked, appeared on my phone. Was Don Cherry fired from his TV segment Coach’s
Corner? No, it turns out that a writer was upset with something Don Cherry had said.
Cherry had said that NFL quarterback Cam Newton should be a class act when losing.
Cherry suggested Tom Brady was an example of how Newton should act. In this latest
article the reporter was complaining that a commentator expressed an opinion. As a
coach and a commentator Cherry has been outspoken; for bad and for mostly good, Don
Cherry had let his opinion well known.
Don cherry played 767 career games in the American Hockey League from 1952-1972; 154
games in the East Coast Professional Hockey League. Chery is one of 305 players to
play only one NHL game. Cherry’s single NHL game took place in the 1954 playoffs. It
was followed by nearly two decades of playing in the minors. Not very many one game
NHL veterans have made a hockey career like Don Cherry
Three years after retiring as a player, Cherry was named head coach of the Boston
Bruins. He coached the Bruins as the team transitioned from the Bobby Orr – Phil
Esposito era to a blue collar hard working team. In his five years coaching Boston
he made the Stanley Cup finals twice; losing both times. He is best remembered for
his final game as Bruins head coach. With three minutes to go in Game 7 of the 1979
semifinals, the Bruins were leading the defending Cup champion Montreal Canadiens.
With just over three minutes to go the Bruins got a too many men on the ice penalty.
More than three decades later you can see Don Cherry’s reaction to the penalty call
at the beginning of coach’s corner. He stood on the bench with his hands extended,
inferring that the referees were favoring Montreal. The Canadiens came back and won
the game eliminating Boston. After the Bruins were eliminated, Boston fired Don
Cherry as coach.
His final year coaching in the NHL was for the Colorado Rockies in 1979-80 season.
His outspoken nature clashed with GM Ray Miron. Cherry gave permission for Rockies’
forward Lanny McDonald to go back to Toronto when his wife as expecting a baby.
Sparks flew when GM Miron found out his new star player had left the team. When the
Rockies missed the playoffs his first year there Cherry was fired. After coaching
480 NHL games don Cherry never coached again.
That same year CBC hired him to do color commentary for the playoffs. The next year
Cherry made his first attempts as a color commentator. It did not go well. He was
unable to keep from cheering for his favorite teams (Toronto and Boston).
Coach’s Corner, which was created a year later, made Donald S. Cherry a household
name. For 35 years, cherry’s first period intermission segment has become a staple of
Canadian culture. There are some Saturdays when I don’t have time (or interest) in
watching Hockey Night in Canada, but I make time for Don Cherry’s Coach’s Corner.
Now with websites and podcasts it is possible to look watch coach’s corner any time
during the week. No longer do we have to set up our VCR to tape Coach’s Corner.
Why has Coach’s Corner lasted for more than three decades?
1. Don Cherry has an opinion and he is not shy to share it. This week’s
controversial article (Don Cherry sacked) was another overreaction to Don Cherry’s
opinion. In modern day sports commentators are there to share opinions. Like it or
not you know what Don Cherry thinks.
2. Don Cherry is not afraid of controversial opinions. Two decades ago he felt that
Europeans were too soft to play in the NHL. Cherry thought (then and now) that the
best players are the rough tough Canadian born players. While the NHL and the hockey
world move away from fighting in the game, Cherry believes fighting is a part of the
3. Don Cherry is a fashion icon or is he? Every week when you watch Don Cherry most
people’s first response is “Where did he get that outfit from? No manufacturer would
mass produce that item?” His flashy, colorful wardrobe is not why Don Cherry has
been around for so long – but it adds a flash to his segment.
4. Ron Maclean has been a co-partner in Coach’s Corner since 1986. As the years have
gone by, Ron’s wit and humor have added to Don Cherry’s rants and monologues. Ron and
Don are both great hockey analysts, but they are better together.
5. Don Cherry has 60 years of hockey experience. In six decades of playing,
coaching and broadcasting Don Cherry has personally known the legends of the game.
He also knows the unsung heroes; and the anonymous players. Each player (hero or
anonymous) has a story. Don is a great story teller – sharing these stories with the
Don Cherry zeal.
6. Don Cherry is Canada’s most loyal citizen. Whether he is talking about Canadian
hockey players, the Canadian military, the Canadian Women’s hockey league; or
anything Canadian, Don Cherry has a maple leaf stamped on his heart. While we may
disagree with some (or all) of his opinions, Canadians appreciate his patriotism.
Don Cherry is one of a kind. On Feb. 5, Don Cherry will turn 83 years old. When
he retires, there will never be another Don Cherry to take his place.