Cherry makes surprise Afghanistan visit

Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan got a surprise Christmas visit from one of their fiercest backers, Don Cherry, the Hockey Night in Canada icon who visited the country to celebrate the holidays with the troops.

Accompanied by federal ministers, entertainers on Christmas Day

Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan received a surprise Christmas visit on Saturday from one of their fiercest backers — Don Cherry.

The Hockey Night in Canada icon visited the country to celebrate the holidays with the troops he praises regularly on his Coach's Corner segments.

Surrounded by a captive audience of soldiers, he held up various NHL team logos.

"Is this your favourite team," he asked, displaying a Calgary Flames logo.

"What about that one?" he said, holding up the emblem for the Montreal Canadiens.

The biggest cheer came after that 

"Les Nordiques!" someone cried, as Cherry showed the logo of Quebec City's beloved former NHL franchise, which the city wants to resurrect.

In the morning, Cherry visited various operating bases, where distinguished guests served food to the soldiers.

Cherry was joined by other Canadian dignitaries, including Defence Minister Peter MacKay, International Co-Operation Minister Bev Oda, Alberta Tory MP Laurie Hawn, comedian Jimmy Mac and Quebec singer Dany St-Arneau.

They were joined by Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Walter Natynczyk.

All the trimmings

MacKay and Oda did the turkey-carving honours at their last stop while the soldiers were serenaded by St-Arneau.

Cherry has been a strong proponent of the soldiers serving in Afghanistan since the war began and Canada's mission started in 2002, using his first intermission segment to honour fallen Canadians.

In recent years, the final Coach's Corner segment before Remembrance Day has ended in a roll call of all the Canadian troops who died over the past year, a list that also sometimes includes police and RCMP officers.

Cherry and HNIC co-host Ron MacLean visited troops who were about to ship off for duty at the military base in Petawawa, Ont., in October.

Cherry has most recently been in the news for his infamous anti-left wing comments at Toronto city council during Mayor Rob Ford's swearing-in ceremony on Dec. 8.

Cherry was Ford's guest during the ceremony.

With files from The Canadian Press