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Speiriscope: Don Cherry

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Don Cherry

DON CHERRY can be a divisive force, especially among people who own (a) opinions and (b) television sets.

For some, the iconic Hockey Night in Canada pundit is a guilty pleasure, kind of like a crazy uncle who never shuts up during Thanksgiving dinner unless you wallop him upside the head with a casserole dish.

For the less forgiving, Cherry's loudmouth suits are almost as annoying as his loudmouth observations on Coach's Corner.

For instance, Cherry made it clear Hockey Canada is heading some place warm (and we don't mean Tampa Bay) for its decision to place a nationwide ban on bodychecking in peewee hockey.

Here's how Grapes put it: "You (Hockey Canada) have good intentions, but the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. You're going to be sorry. You watch and see, you will be sorry. What's going to happen is these kids are going to go up to (age) 13 and then they're going to go in with kids that hit. And they don't know how to protect themselves."

In April, Uncle Don stirred the hornets nets again when, in defending Chicago defenceman Duncan Keith for making sexist comments to Vancouver broadcaster Karen Thomson in a post-game interview, he snorted: "I don't believe women should be in the male dressing room!"

Love him or hate him, Cherry is undeniably a verbal and sartorial train wreck, and you can't look away for fear of missing one of his outrageous moments, of which there are too many to count, but if we had to choose our Top 5, these might fit the bill...


In 2010, this loquacious Canadian fashion icon wore a hot pink suit to the inauguration of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford amid a political battle over bike lanes. Explained Cherry: "I'm wearing pink for all the pinkos out there that ride bicycles and everything, I thought I'd get it in."

He ended by predicting Ford would become Hog Town's all-time greatest mayor, adding: "And put that in your pipe, you left-wing kooks!" Sorry, Don, whose pipe was that again?


Cherry has never pulled any punches when it comes to NHL players protecting their pretty faces with visors. His view is guys who wear them have less respect for player safety. "Most of the guys that wear them are Europeans and French guys," he grunted during an enlightening Coach's Corner spot in 2004. For some reason, this did not go over especially well in Quebec.


During the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, Cherry was unimpressed when Bloc Qu©b©cois members griped about the number of Canadian flags in the Olympic Village, roaring: "You know, it's funny, they don't want the Canadian flag, but they want our money." He lamented the choice of graceful skier Jean-Luc Brassard as Olympic flag-bearer, dismissing him as "a French guy, some skier nobody knows about."


Fans of the original version of the Jets -- and they have very long memories -- will recall in 1989, when asked about then-assistant Winnipeg coach Alpo Suhonen, who happens to be Finnish, Grapes fired off this witty riposte: "Alpo? Isn't that a dog food?" The "joke" prompted team owner Barry Shenkarow to threaten a lawsuit. Cherry's dog, Blue, was no doubt amused.


In an iconic 1990 TV ad for the Sport Select lottery (Google this right now!) Cherry landed in hot water again for likening non-aggressive hockey play to the ballet, which prompted the Royal Winnipeg Ballet to challenge him to take a (bad word) lesson, which he bravely did. "There's no fat guys in ballet," he chortled after a few leg lifts and pirouettes. Handed an RWB T-shirt emblazoned with a spinning dancer, he snickered: "That looks like Bobby Orr flying through the air, doesn't it?"

You're a beauty, Uncle Don. We'd love to have you over for Thanksgiving dinner some time. But you might want to wear a visor and keep your head up, because those casserole dishes can really sting.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 1, 2013 D2

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