Cherry predicts Canadian sledge hockey win

Hockey Night in Canada commentator Don Cherry says Canada's gold-medal good luck will continue through the upcoming Paralympics.

Canada's best-known hockey commentator says this country's gold-medal good luck will continue through the Paralympics, which begin Friday.

Don Cherry, of CBC's Hockey Night in Canada, was a guest speaker at a Paralympic luncheon in Vancouver on Wednesday.

The sportscasting legend said he's certain the Canadian sledge hockey team will join the men's and women's Olympic squads in winning the gold medal.

"You are going to win the gold," a supremely confident Cherry told Canadian sledge hockey goaltender Paul Rosen, much to the delight of the 400 people in attendance.

The outspoken broadcaster, who shunned his usual wacky attire for a rather stylish suit, entertained the crowd with stories from his coaching days, including ones about the greatness of Bobby Orr and the time Cherry was fired by the Boston Bruins.

While he thinks the world of Paralympians such as Rosen, Cherry said, he did once put his foot in his mouth when talking about a visually impaired coach while covering a hockey game.

"I got fired by Boston, I got fired by Colorado, and now I've got a job [with Hockey Night in Canada]," Cherry recalled. "I'm doing pretty good. I've gone the whole year, and it's the finals between Minnesota and Montreal."

One of the coaches in that series had previously lost an eye, Cherry said. The injury didn't impact the coach's ability to argue with his counterpart, however, and the two sides were really going at it.

"I said, 'It's a good game, but it doesn't look like [they] are seeing eye to eye'," Cherry remembered with a chuckle.

Cherry's wife told him he was likely headed back to the unemployment line after that comment, but the broadcaster avoided the chopping block and has been with the CBC for three decades.

Helping hand

It was through his sportscasting that Cherry forever earned Rosen's gratitude.

After the sledge hockey team won gold in Turin in 2006, Rosen participated in a number of charity events. It was at one of those get-togethers that the netminder's prized Paralympic medal was stolen.

Cherry took to the "Coach's Corner" airwaves and told the thief to do the right thing.

"I said, 'You're a good guy. We all make mistakes. If you don't [return it], you're the biggest rat in the world.' And I think it was one week, and you got it back," Cherry recalled, addressing Rosen.

Rosen gave all the credit for the return of the medal, which was left inside a mailbox, to Cherry.

"That person would have thrown the medal in the garbage," he said. "They would not have had the courage to give it back."

The Vancouver Paralympics will be the final Games for the 49-year-old Rosen, and, much like Cherry, he predicted he'll go out with a bang.

"On March 20, 2010, at UBC, we will win the gold medal," Rosen said.

Long shot

While some might suggest a gold medal is a long shot for a Canadian sledge team ranked third in the world heading into the Paralympics, Rosen said he has faced much tougher battles.

At the age of 15, he broke his leg in 14 places after catching his skate in a rut. He underwent 23 different surgeries over the next 24 years, and at age 39, his leg became infected and had to be amputated.

"A doctor looked in my face, and he said to me ... 'You have about three months to live'," Rosen recalled. "'This infection's going to kill you, and you just better set your plans in order for a funeral.'

"I cannot believe that 10 years later, I'm preparing for my third Paralympic Games with the greatest teammates in the world."

Rosen and the rest of the Canadian team face off against Italy on Saturday (10 a.m. PT, 1 p.m. ET).