Donald S. Cherry is the HNIC icon (and doesn't suck, BTW - he's just misunderstood), but another Don Cherry (1936-1995) was the trumpeter in Ornette Coleman's early quartets in the late 1950's and early 1960's. He went from there to sort of "inventing" world music and improvisational ambient music. His stepdaughter Neneh and son Eagle Eye have been seen and heard on MTV.

Don Cherry is the host / commentator of Coach's Corner on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's Hockey Night in Canada. He is a loud, brash individual, who rarely shies away from saying what he thinks. When it comes to hockey players, his opinions often boil down to Canadian Boys "having more heart" or "wanting it more". Except French Canadians, who he seems to think are a bunch of wusses. Along with Europeans.

One of Don's trademarks is his wardrobe, which often consists of a crazy plaid suit. During the playoffs, his outfits tend to get even weirder. For years he always had his Yorkshire terrier, Blue with him. The dog unfortunately has since passed on.


On the ice.

The son of Del Cherry, a professional baseball player, Don was born on February 5, 1934, in Kingston, Ontario. Like a lot of young Canadian men, he had a passion for hockey, and found that he was rather good at it. Years after having dropped out of high school, he started playing professionally in 1954, for the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League. It is there that he met Rose Martini, whom he started seeing, and married two years later. The two of them would eventually have two children, Cindy and Tim.

Cherry hopped from team to team, and managed to even play in the NHL, for the Boston Bruins. For one game. But at least it was a playoff game, as a sub during the 1955 playoff series against the Montreal Canadiens.

Cherry spent 16 years playing minor league hockey, before he decided to move on to other things. I can't find a list of all the teams he played for, but apparently it was a lot, having moved 50 times, dragging his family along with him. Tired of this, in 1970, he moved on to bigger and better things. And by that, I mean he worked construction and was "the world's worst Cadillac salesman". Apparently, the whole not being in hockey thing wasn't working out so well for him, and he returned to play as a defenceman for the Rochester Americans in 1971.

Fortunately for him the coach was fired in the middle of the season, and he was chosen to be the replacement.


Behind the bench.

He did rather well in this new role, and was voted the AHL Coach of the year in 1971 and 1972. This is despite being fired after his first season for being too friendly to the players and the fans. After a mild uproar over the decision, he was hired back on. Soon enough, he was promoted to head coach of the Boston Bruins in 1974. With him at the helm, they did rather well, finishing 1st in their division for four years running. Cherry was deemed to be Coach of the Year, winning the Jack Adams award for the 1975/1976 season.

In 1979, he lead the Bruins to the Stanley Cup Finals, once again versus the Montreal Canadiens. In game 7 (Out of 7 for those not in the know), he messed up, or someone messed up, but the team received a penalty for having too many men on the ice, and during the ensuing power play, the Canadiens scored the tying goal, going on to win the game in overtime, and costing the Bruins the Cup.

Now, Cherry had been feuding with the management of the club for a while, so this was the last straw. He was fired, and the next year, picked up as coach of the Colorado Rockies, who performed really poorly that season. Here is his NHL coaching record:

                  Regular Season Playoffs 
Team    Season      W   L   T      W  L 
Boston   1974-75     40  26  14     1  2 
Boston   1975-76     48  15  17     5  7 
Boston   1976-77     49  23  8      8  6 
Boston   1977-78     51  18  11     10 5 
Boston   1978-79     43  23  14     7  4 
Colorado 1979-80     19  48  13      N/A
Total               250 153  77     31 24 

In the corner.

That year, however, he happened to appear on Hockey Night in Canada. The producers of the show liked him so much that they created a new spot, Coach's Corner, where he, soon to be joined with Ron MacLean, would discuss the game that night, hockey in general, or any number of topics such as the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, which was the topic for the last game of the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals. (P.S. BOO TAMPA BAY. GO FLAMES GO.)

The Coach's Corner segment proved to be rather popular, to the point that the ratings for the segment actually tend to be higher than for the game itself.

In it, Cherry is brash, and always speaks his mind. He encourages a rough, physical game, and doesn't have much respect for those players who he considers wusses. As mentioned before, these tend to be French Canadians and Europeans, specifically Russian players.

Cherry's tendency to speak his mind has caused some trouble for him. In 1998 Jean-Luc Brassard, the flag bearer at the opening ceremonies of the Nagano Olympics and a Quebec separatist, made some comments about how he wished he hadn't carried the flag. Cherry went on his program calling Bassard a "French guy, some skier nobody knows about," and went on about how separatists are "a bunch of whiners." Naturally, this pissed off a number of people.

In 2003, he berated his co-host Ron MacLean and the Canadian government for not supporting the War on Iraq, while wearing a sparkling tie featuring the American Flag.

And most recently, following comments in 2003 about hockey players wearing visors being mostly "French guys and Europeans", his show was put on a 7 second delay, so that it could be censored if need be. This is despite the fact that a statistical analysis proved that a disproportionate number of "French" and "European" players wore visors.


Off camera.

One thing that I closely associate Don Cherry with is a series of videos that he produces by the name of Don Cherry's Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Hockey. Every year, this collection of a bunch of cool hockey plays comes out, featuring good goals, good saves, and notably, good hits and good fights. This franchise has done rather well for Cherry.

He has also branched into Radio Commentary, with a nationally syndicated program by the name of Don Cherry's Grapeline, with co-host Brian Williams of the CBC.

Cherry was for a while part owner of the Mississauga IceDogs, part of the Junior Ontario Hockey League. The team did not do all that well, which some people claim is due to excessive interference by him in the day to day operations of the team. After his wife Rose passed away from cancer in 1997, he founded Rose Cherry's Home for Kids, a retreat for children suffering from life threatening illnesses.

He also owns a series of sports bars throughout the country, although mostly centred in Ontario, by the name of Don Cherry's Grapevine. He was the focus of a best selling biography, Grapes. And most recently, at the end of the 2004 hockey season, there were rumour flying that the CBC was not going to renew Cherry's contract. There were a number of people pleased with this, as they feel that Cherry's brash pro-violence positions represent all that is wrong about hockey. On the other hand, there's a LOT of people who thought that it was entertaining, and did not want to see him go. Eventually they renewed his contract. And, later on in the year, the CBC ran a series called The Greatest Canadian where through a series of polls they attempted to determine who the greatest Canadian of all time is. Partially as a backlash against them trying to fire Cherry, a lot of people voted for him, forcing the CBC to "officially" acknowledge Don Cherry as the seventh greatest Canadian of all time. Below Nobel Peace Prize winner Lester B. Pearson, and above Cherry's own choice for the honour, Canada's first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald.

From a personal standpoint, I don't mind Cherry. I think he's entertaining, even if I don't often agree with his opinions. That having been said, I think it's rather embarrassing that he made the top 10 for the whole "Greatest Canadian" thing. There's a lot of better choices out there.

Lester B. Pearson - #6 << Greatest Canadian Number #7 >> John A. Macdonald - #3

Sources:
CANOE, CBC says it won't fire Cherry for remarks about separatists. February 23, 1998. <www.canoe.ca/SlamNaganoNews/feb23_cherry.html> (December 24, 2004).

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, "Indepth: Don Cherry," CBC Sports Online. 2004. <www.cbc.ca/sports/indepth/doncherry/stories/bio.html> (December 24, 2004).

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, "Don Cherry," CBC.ca - The Greatest Canadian - Top Ten Greatest Canadians. 2004. <www.cbc.ca/greatest/top_ten/nominee/cherry-don.html> (December 24, 2004).

Greg Dooley, "Don Cherry is Grapes," Grapevine Online. 2004. <gregdooley.com/archive%202002/Cherry.html> (December 24, 2004).

Bill Van Dyk, "Cherry Pie," Rant of the Week. 2000. <www.chromehorse.net/rants/rants00/cherry_pie.htm> (December 24, 2004).

Ian Wilson, Kirk Luedeke, and James Littlefield, "Don Cherry," Boston Bruins Legends. <www.bruins-legends.com/coaches/cherry.htm> (December 24, 2004).

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