My favorite Don Cherry moment? It was at the grand opening of his bar in Windsor, Ontario, back in the early ’80s. The man was standing at the back of the room holding court when he saw me walking up looking like a David St. Hubbins starter kit. He stopped, stared and let me have it. “Whaddaya doin’ with that hair?” he said. “You look like a sheepdog! Get a haircut, fer cryin’ out loud!”
That’s Grapes, right? The man has never shied away from sharing his honest opinion, and whether you love him or hate him, you know he’s not going to pull his punches. He always gives it to you straight.
And, truth be told, I probably could have used a trim.
Our interaction came to mind with the news that the ageless wonder is celebrating his 80th birthday today. And since we can’t get him what he really deserves — a spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame — let’s honor his first day as an octogenarian with a look back at eight memorable Don Cherry moments — for better or worse — that we’ve all shared:
Cherry gets a little emotional after watching a montage of Bobby Orr highlights. Hey, it happens.
• “Let my son be beat up? I think not.”
Here’s Grapes getting into it with our esteemed colleague Michael Farber (loving that handsome sweater vest, Mike!) on a CBC news broadcast in the aftermath of the infamous Punch-Up in Piestany. Farber places the blame for the donnybrook, which cost Canada the gold medal at the 1987 World Juniors, on coach Bert Templeton and his inability to control his players. Grapes attempts to revoke Farber’s man card in his response.
• “Eric slaps that yella little Kasparaitis around …”
This is Cherry in full lather during a 1996 World Cup of Hockey broadcast in which he physically pushed Ron MacLean out of his way before launching into an epic rip job of Russian hockey. There are more big waves in these four minutes than you’d see in a month at Mavericks.
• “It’s always a woman, yappin’ away there.”
Cherry ticked off 51 percent of his audience, and co-host Ron MacLean, with this gender-based observation in the wake of a spectator being struck by a puck.
• “We’re all dyin’ a cold and he’s talkin’ warming trends.”
Here’s Cherry not quite grasping the concept of climate change.
• “Of course he doesn’t like it. He’s only this high!”
This shot at the Canadiens’ Mats Naslund launched a thousand chirps, and still makes me laugh 25 years later.
• “Red Luck Havacog or whatever.”
Here’s Cherry in full-on Gran Torino mode, hitching up his britches and moaning about the changes going on in his neighborhood. To be honest, I’m right there with him on this one.
• “Buttercup … Get yer visor off.”
Nobody loves a good tussle as much as Cherry … unless one of the fighters involved is wearing a shield. Grapes questions the toughness of then Wild agitator Cal Clutterbuck in this gem.