Wednesday, November 22

The Man

For true hockey fans, fans who really know the game, Don Cherry is the man. I always said that if America had Don Cherry, the hockey-watching audience would at least double in this country. Growing up so close to the border, we New Fallujahians have had the benefit of CBC and watching Cherry in action. I was surprised to see this lengthy feature story on espn.com this morning. Even if you don't have time to read through the entire story, the pictures are great...

Some highlights for those of you unfamiliar with Don Cherry--

"He's the most recognized face in Canada. It's like traveling with a rock star, the Rolling Stones, except he's bigger than them in this country."

"It's like if you took John Madden and overlaid him with Rush Limbaugh," adds Calgary-based columnist, author and broadcaster Bruce Dowbiggin, one of Cherry's frequent critics. "It's become larger than life. I don't think there's any position in the U.S. that equates to it."

Cherry's propensity to infuriate and alienate at least as often as he illuminates. Over the years, from his bully pulpit on Coach's Corner, firing from the lip at anything that moves, he has managed to enrage a long list of folks including but not limited to: his bosses at the CBC, French Canadians, European players in general, Swedes and Russians in particular, players who wear visors, and members of the media by whom he is regularly poleaxed.

He has repeatedly enraged French Canadians calling into question their heart and love for their country. Referring to the French translation of the Memorial Cup, Coupe Memorial, Cherry once famously quipped, "What's that? A car giveaway?" Cherry also referred to freestyle skier Jean-Luc Brassard, chosen as the country's flag-bearer at the 1998 Olympics, as "a French guy, some skier nobody knows about."

During the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, Cherry weighed in when Russian Olympic officials made noise about withdrawing from the Games because of perceived bias when it came to drug testing. "I've been trying to tell you people for so long about the Russians, what kind of people they are, and you just love them in Canada with your multiculturalism," he scolded. "They're quitters and evidently they take a lot of drugs, too."

At the start of the Iraq War in early 2003, Cherry loudly supported the Americans, while co-host MacLean defended Canada's position of noninvolvement, which, to Cherry, equaled nonsupport of an ally. The raucous debate lasted an entire Coach's Corner segment in March of that year and became a national news story. The CBC later removed the transcript of that segment from its online archives.

For those of you hockey fans who haven't had the insights into real hockey and would like to learn a thing or two, check out Cherry's Rockem Sockem DVD collection - some true classics in there, especially the original 5 or 6.

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