The Don Cherry Lexicon
"Quebec," "visors," and "chicken
Swedes" -- Grapes has a penchant for touching nerves with the
words he chooses.
Blue: Cherry's pointy-snouted, blue-eyed, often-barking English
bull terrier is probably the most famous dog in Canada. Blue stars
on in the intro to Coach’s Corner, and Grapes is said to have modeled
the Bruins' bruising playing style after the tenacious pup. In an
article for Maclean's, famed hockey writer Trent Frayne describes
how Blue once caused a commotion by biting Cherry's wife, Rose. According
to Frayne, after the incident one of Cherry's friends said, "You're
gonna have to get rid of her." Cherry agreed, adding "me and Blue'll
sure miss her." Blue, like Lassie, has had several incarnations. The
original Blue died in 1989.
Bobby Orr: Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe and
Mario Lemieux all may have been great, but if you ask Grapes, no one
compares to No.4, Bobby Orr. Cherry coached Orr and the Boston Bruins
for several years and has unabashedly proclaimed the skillful defenceman
the greatest player ever to lace up a pair of skates. "There's an
aura about him," said Cherry during the opening of the Bobby Orr Hall
of Fame last summer in Parry Sound, Ont. "He's like Babe Ruth or something."
Don Cherry eyes no one is better than
Boston Bruins: Cherry's colourful style and straight-shooting
approach made him a fan favourite as a Bruins coach in the 1970s.
Cherry spent five years behind the Boston bench, earning the Jack
Adams Trophy in 1975-76 as coach of the year. The most famous moment
of Cherry's coaching career came when his team was assessed a too-many-men-on-the-ice
penalty in the deciding game of a playoff series versus the Montreal
Canadiens. The Habs skated to victory, sealing Cherry's coaching fate
in Beantown. Despite the departure, Cherry has returned to Boston
on many subsequent occasions, receiving raucous ovations from the
Bruins' faithful, and Boston remains a favourite citation in his Coach's
Chicken Swedes: Grapes has never hidden the fact
that he's an extremely proud Canadian. He wears his love for his country
on his sleeve -- sometimes it's on his jacket and tie. And when it
comes to playing hockey, he is certain that the best of the best come
from Canada. Grapes' love for Canadian players can only be matched
by his disdain for European players. Over the years, Cherry has questioned
Euros' heart, made fun of their names and chastised them for introducing
diving and visors to the NHL. Given that, it's not surprising almost
nothing gets the Coach's hackles up like the idea of European players
taking jobs from good-old Canadian boys. "I worked in construction
for 25 years while I was playin' and after. I know what it's like
to have somebody take your job," Cherry once said.
Del: An outstanding baseball player, some consider Del Cherry
the greatest athlete the city of Kingston, Ont. has ever produced.
But Del and wife Maude were most famous for producing a son, Donald
Stewart Cherry. And one thing dear old dad passed on to his famous
son was a sense of style. "He wore custom-made shirts," Grapes said
in an interview with the Globe and Mail two years ago, "a diamond
stick pin, naturally, custom made-to-measure suits … tight vest with
a gold watch chain, long black mackinaw coat, white silk scarf with
D. J. C. embroidered on it, black tight leather gloves, a long Dunhill
cigarette holder with extra long Buckingham cigarettes, topped off
by a gray Homburg hat worn at a jaunty angle. Sensational. I get chills
Dougie: Anyone who watches Coach's Corner
regularly knows which players Grapes likes and which ones he doesn't.
One of his all-time favourites is undoubtedly former Toronto Maple
Leaf captain Doug Gilmour, or, as Cherry affectionately calls him,
"Dougie." The first thing Gilmour had going for him was his hometown
-- both men grew up in Kingston, Ont. and are fiercely proud of it.
But more importantly, Cherry liked the way Gilmour played the game.
Gilmour's take-no-prisoners, win-at-all-costs style epitomized Cherry's
vision of what a hockey player should be like. Cherry lavished Gilmour
with praise and, in a moment that's now classic Canadian television,
gave him a big wet kiss.
Doug Gilmour's win-at-all-costs style
of play impressed Don Cherry.
Hershey Bears: Cherry's playing career began in 1954. The Hershey
Bears paid the 20-year-old a modest $4,500 for the season. Cherry's
playing days would also take him to Boston; Springfield, Mass.; Trois-Rivieres,
Que.; Sudbury, Ont.; Kitchener, Ont.; Spokane, Wash.; Tulsa, Okla.;
Vancouver; and Rochester, N.Y. In 1955, an injury-riddled Boston Bruins
club called him for a playoff game. It was the only NHL game Cherry
would ever play. When asked what kind of player he was, Cherry said
he was a tough, stay-at-home defenceman. "I was a plugger," he explained.
"I could fight."
Hot Dog: Cherry is a proponent of playing hard and trying to
win. But he's also a big believer in sportsmanship. Players who stick
it to their opponents with elaborate post-goal celebrations or over-the-top
flashy plays are a solid bet to draw the Coach's ire. One such rant
made headlines in late 2003 when the Coach called blue-chip junior
prospect Sidney Crosby a hot dog. Cherry objected to the way Crosby
slid around on his knees after scoring. He also disapproved of a tricky
behind-the-net goal the young star pulled off when a game was already
out of reach for the team he scored on.
Instigator: Cherry also is an advocate of getting rid of this
rule, which gives a player an extra penalty for starting a fight.
Cherry says the rule prevents enforcers from protecting their team's
stars. Players can take cheap shots at the game's best players without
fear of reprisal. Cherry points to the careers of Wayne Gretzky and
Mario Lemieux as proof of his theory. "[Gretzky] had [Dave] Semenko
and [Marty] McSorley protecting him for most of his career. Did you
notice Gretzky getting the [crap] kicked out of him, the way Lemieux
was? Nobody hit [Gretzky] because nobody wanted Semenko or McSorley
coming after them. You want to talk open ice, Gretzky had all the
open ice he wanted because he was protected."
Iraq: Cherry is a proud Canadian and friend
of the United States. This fierce national love affair has made him
a patriotic symbol to his legion of fans, but has also landed him
in hot water. One such occasion came on March 22, 2003, during a controversial
instalment of Coach's Corner. Hockey talk was brushed aside in favour
of world affairs -- more specifically, a heated debate over the U.S.-led
war with Iraq. Cherry began by criticizing Montreal fans for booing
the American national anthem before a game earlier in the week. The
conversation quickly turned to the war when Ron MacLean said "everybody
wants to know what you think." The Coach, wearing a sparkling U.S.-flag-inspired
tie, berated MacLean about being neutral on the war, then slammed
the Canadian government for not supporting the U.S. in the war. The
exchange sparked strong sentiments from both supporters and detractors.
CBC Television called the discussion "uninformed and irrelevant,"
and the duo were asked to stick to hockey.
Don Cherry wears his love for Canada on
his sleeve, and sometimes on his tie. (CP Photo)
Kingston: Don Cherry was born on Feb. 5, 1934, in Kingston,
Ont. But he left Kingston, barely a teenager, to pursue his hockey
dream. His mediocre playing career took him to Sudbury, Spokane and
even Boston. As a coach and (in)famous broadcaster he's traveled across
North America. He currently lives just outside of Toronto. But still,
Cherry's fondness for Kingston is obvious. Grape's hometown often
comes up during Coach's Corner and Cherry never hides his affection
for Kingston-born players like Doug Gilmour and Kirk Muller.
Left-wing pinkos: Grapes is particularly sour on those people
he feels are trying to take the toughness out of hockey. Every season
he rails against whiny "left-wing pinkos" and the preachy "politically
correct" for, among other things, trying to take fighting out of the
game, forcing players to wear visors, and censoring his notorious
rants. Cherry says he speaks for the "average Joes" who work in factories
and farms and relax in taverns. He says his constituency is the "working
guy." Coincidentally, the real left-wing pinkos also say they speak
for the working guy.
Pat Roy: What Cherry says is sometimes controversial
and incendiary; how he says it is always amusing and, at times, befuddling.
While most television broadcasters speak as if they were trained at
Canada's finest universities, Cherry's lingo is better suited for
the construction site. His loud and bombastic rants are littered with
youze guys, aints, anyhows, anythinks and dat deres. Cherry is also
notorious for butchering names – Jaromir Jagr (Yammie Yagger), Patrick
Roy (Pat Roy, as in Siegfried and …), Keith Tkachuk (Tay-chuck) and
Tie Domi (Dah-me) are just a few of the names Cherry can't, or refuses
to, wrap his tongue around.
Grapes can't seem to find a way to wrap
his tongue around the name Patrick Roy. (CP Photo)
Quebec: Comments about La Belle Province have provided some
of the most controversial moments on Coach's Corner over the years.
Some comments simply raised eyebrows, while others caused outrage.
One of the more famous moments occurred in 1998 when Cherry referred
to Quebecers as "whiners" and called freestyle skier Jean-Luc Brassard
"that French guy." Five years later, the Coach ripped Canadiens fans
for booing the Star Spangled Banner during a game in Montreal during
the U.S.-led war with Iraq, and later went on the Jim Rome show to
say "true Canadians do not feel the way they do in Quebec there."
Even in defending his beloved Anglo heritage, Cherry can't resist
taking a swipe at Quebec. In 1993 he attracted the wrong kind of federal
attention, saying Anglophone residents of Sault Ste. Marie "speak
the good language."
Rochester Americans: Cherry's playing career ended and his
coaching career began in the same place: Rochester, N.Y. After 15
seasons as a minor-leaguer, Grapes retired in 1969. He spent some
time working at various jobs –- including a stint as the "world's
worst Cadillac salesman" –- before deciding to make a comeback with
the Rochester Americans. But Cherry's return would only last 19 games.
In January of 1972, he took over as the Americans' head coach. He
enjoyed three successful seasons with the club before Harry Sinden
hired him to coach the Boston Bruins. Cherry had achieved as a coach
what he could never achieve as a player -- he made the NHL and stuck
Rock 'em, Sock 'em: The way Grapes likes the game
to be played. It's grit over glamour. Players should give and take
hits, never back down from a challenge, and be ready to defend a teammate.
Having sweet goal-scoring hands is good, but having hands that can
knock an opponent out, as well as pot goals, is better. For Cherry
this is quintessential Canadian hockey. Cherry says it's this kind
of play that wins Stanley Cups. His critics say his emphasis on toughness
has hampered the development of skillful Canadian players. "His
thinking, and his extraordinary influence, has been the single most
destructive influence on the development of Canadian hockey,"
newspaper columnist Roy MacGregor once wrote.
Rose: Rosemarie (Rose) Madelyn Martini was the love of Cherry's
life. They met during Cherry's rookie year in Hershey in 1954. On
their first date, Cherry brought her to a hockey game where she watched
him get into a bloody fight. That first impression must have lasted.
"I was 20, she was 18, the first girl I ever went with," he told Maclean's
magazine once. "We got married two years after. I've never heard her
whine once. She runs everythink (sic), my whole life." Through his
16-year minor league career, Rose was Cherry's foundation, raising
their two children -- Cindy and Tim -- and supporting his changing
careers. Cherry once said he always knew when he did a good Coach's
Corner because Rose wouldn't talk to him for a day. Rose died June
1, 1997, after a battle with liver cancer. Shortly after her death,
the Rose Cherry Home was founded, a hospice in her memory that helps
terminally ill children and their families. The facility will be finished
in the summer of 2004. As Cherry says on the foundation's website,
the home couldn't be named after a better person.
Sharp-dressed man: A sharp-dressed man, according to Donald
S. Cherry, should adhere to the following advice. Suit? The Coach
always wears a double-breasted suit, never single-breasted. Flamboyant
patterns are essential plaids, bright green and yellow, Canadian
colours, to name a few. Shirt? High collared shirts 3½-inch,
to be exact. Tight around the neck. Tie? The crazier, the better
flashing lights, cartoon characters, flags. Ties must be tied in Cherry's
special Windsor knot
tied backwards, single knot, not a double
Windsor. Shoes: Silvas with extra thin soles. Jewelry? Cuff links,
stick pin, gold bar for shirt collar. There was that one time when
Don wore an earring in L.A.
Favourite accessory? Lucky CCM
cuff links, which are allegedly 50 years old and in the shape of hockey
skates. The Coach has a style all his own and it's a "beauty."
Too many men on the ice: The lowlight of Cherry's coaching
career came during the 1979 Stanley Cup playoffs. Grapes' Bruins were
up 4-3 and minutes away from winning the decisive game in a best-of-seven
series against their arch-rivals, the Montreal Canadiens. But with
74 seconds left, Boston was whistled for a too-many-men-on-the-ice
penalty. Guy Lafleur scored as time wound down to tie the score, and
Yvon Lambert potted one in overtime to give the Canadiens the series.
Montreal would go on to win the Stanley Cup. The game was Cherry's
last on the Bruins' bench.
Tough guys: Cherry has always had a soft
spot for the guys who drop the gloves. Tie Domi, Terry O'Reilly and
Bob Probert were just a few of his favourites. On the other hand,
players who "turtle," or refuse to fight when confronted by a challenge,
are sure to be a target for the wrath of Grapes. Cherry has made no
secret that he thinks fighting is an important part of hockey, and
scoffs at those who argue that it should be taken out of the game.
"It's always been a part of the game," he says. "The fans love fighting.
The players don't mind. The coaches like the fights. What's the big
Don Cherry loves tough guys like Tie Domi
and Scott Stevens. (CP Photo)
Visors: Visor usage in the NHL is a topic Cherry has discussed
many times on Coach's Corner. He's not a big fan of face shields and
has argued that players are more likely to be reckless with their
sticks due to the sense of security visors provide. The issue sparked
a controversy in early 2004 when Grapes said on Coach's Corner "most
of the guys that wear them are Europeans and French guys." Cherry
has since said he supports an all-or-nothing approach to visors. Either
the NHL should mandate the face protectors for everyone or ban their
use outright. He also thinks the league will make visors mandatory
in the next three or four years.