Friday, March 6, 2009

Is it time for The Don to hang up the brightly coloured suit?

When I was a little kid I didn’t bother watching Toronto Maple Leafs games in the early 90’s at 5 p.m. on Saturday nights. I had no interest in seeing Doug Gilmour and Wendel Clark zipping around the ice with Bob Cole and Harry Neale bowing at the feet of the almighty Maple Leaf organization. But there was one event I would always come running out of my room for after the first period of Hockey Night in Canada. When I heard that distinctive Coach’s Corner theme song I would come running into the living room yelling the name of my hero: “Don Cherry! Don Cherry! Don Cherry! Don Cherry!”. I loved Don Cherry. He dressed funny, he talked about hockey, he would give advice to kids and he would yell at Ron McLean. He was a real life cartoon character. The angry, senile, intense version of Mr. Dressup. But at the same time he managed to toe the line between being entertaining but at the same time his biases were not that pronounced. But then in the year 2000, Gary Bettman and the NHL’s board approved an unthinkable new rule that caused Don to go over the deep end; they initiated the instigator rule. This was really the first notice that the NHL as we knew it was going to change forever and Cherry seemed to take it as a personal attack and suddenly his pre-existing biases and bigotry’s about French Canadians and European hockey players slowly started seep out. By 2004 Don Cherry had specifically taken aim at a few issues such as European skill players being better players then Canadians, visors, the instigator rule and basically anything progressive coming into the game today. Cherry got in trouble that year for his comment about only “French Guy’s” wearing visors and because of this CBC put a 7 second delay so there would be no more perceived anti-French Canadian comments. Don has gotten slowly worse and worse until last Saturday, when in my opinion, Cherry hit a brand new low. He proceeded to drastically cut-down the NHL’s best player, Alex Ovechkin, and it’s champion from last season, the Detroit Red Wings basically for not conforming to his outdated vision of the NHL. Cherry doesn’t like Ovechkin jumping around after scoring his goals and showing enthusiasm on the ice. He’d rather that Ovie would be one of the usual boring, no personality Canadian hockey players that he loves. Ovechkin get’s just as excited when a teammate scores so you can throw any selfish showboating notions out the door right now. After Cherry got done with his baseless anti-Ovechkin diatribe finishing off with his belief that ‘Jumbo’ Joe Thornton is the best player in the NHL(“Give me a break”) he turned his venom towards the heavily European Detroit Red Wings. They were the first team to win the Stanley Cup with a European captain and a European laden roster and Cherry has shown that he can’t stand it. While he does have a point that Red Wings fans absolutely love fighters and fighting(always have) he does conveniently ignore the economy and high ticket prices as other reasons as to why fans aren’t turning out in droves for Wings games. He then ripped Pavel Datsyuk for “Hits from behind”, showing clips of what were clean hits with a couple borderline ones that are thrown every game. You’re telling me you couldn’t find clips of a Canadian player throwing the same hits? Please. Cherry’s xenophobic anti-European rants have grown tiresome and somewhat disturbing. For someone who at least likes to think that kids look up to him and listen to him, he really doesn’t do a good job filling in as a roll model. If I had kids, I would not let them watch Coach’s Corner because I wouldn’t want them to grow up thinking that they’re better and tougher then someone else simply because of the country of birth on your birth certificate. It’s time for a new Coach to occupy that chair on CBC. It’s time for Cherry to ride off into the sunset before he damages his legacy anymore then it already is.

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