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Don Cherry’s Greatest Hits in honor of his 80th birthday

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By Allan Muir

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:

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  • Published On Feb 05, 2014
  • Rogers Communications’ smart play: More Don Cherry, not less

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    The future of Don Cherry and Ron MacLean is uncertain after NHL lands huge Canadian broadcasting deal with Rogers Communications.

    Don Cherry and Ron MacLean still make Hockey Night in Canada must-see viewing. (Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

    By Allan Muir

    Are we witnessing the end of Don Cherry’s stranglehold on Saturday night?

    That was one of the key questions raised after it was announced that Rogers Communications had paid $5.2 billion to take over all English-language NHL broadcasting in Canada, including the venerable Hockey Night In Canada, after this season.

    And with new owners calling the shots, many assumed or hoped that the new 12-year media rights deal, the biggest such agreement in NHL history, meant Cherry’s days were numbered.

    Grapes, of course, isn’t buying it.

    “They’ve been saying that for 30 years” he told CBC’s Andi Petrillo on Thursday. “I know I’m No. 1 and Coach’s Corner is No. 1 and what are you going to do?”

    You can’t blame the man for his defiant attitude. He’s always kept the wolves at bay before. But the fact of the matter is that Hockey Night In Canada and, by extension, Cherry’s job, belong to Rogers now. The show may be an icon, but it’s their icon. And it’s almost inconceivable after making that kind of investment that they would not take the opportunity to put their stamp on the brand.

    So the question is, what do they want Hockey Night In Canada to look like?

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  • Published On Nov 29, 2013
  • Don Cherry on Ilya Kovalchuk: “He’s laughing all the way to the bank.”

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    Don Cherry spoke out about Ilya Kovalchuk leaving the NHL.

    Now hear this: Ilya Kovalchuk was Don Cherry’s kind of Russian player … to a point. (Leon T Switzer/ Icon SMI)

    By Allan Muir

    In the 24 hours since Ilya Kovalchuk dropped his “retirement” bombshell on the NHL, we’ve heard the reactions of everyone from basketball’s Metta World Peace to Kovalchuk’s own mother. But we haven’t heard from hockey’s eternal wellspring of hot sports opinions: Mr. Donald S. Cherry

    Until now.

    Hey, you didn’t think he was saving these thoughts for Blue, didja?

    Speaking to radio host Bryan Angus on Friday morning, Cherry seemed surprisingly subdued when the topic of Kovalchuk’s departure was raised.

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  • Published On Jul 12, 2013
  • Don Cherry credits Mike Milbury for Alex Ovechkin’s turnaround

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    Alex Ovechkin sports a new business-like haircut.

    Did Mike Milbury’s barbs drive Alexander Ovechkin to the barber for a more down-to-business hairdo and mindset? (Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images)

    By Allan Muir

    Don Cherry’s critics are going to have a field day with this one.

    Asked about the remarkable turnaround of Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals, the bombastic TV star offered up a unique take.

    “Mike Milbury, I think, deserves a lot of credit here,” Cherry said on Toronto’s Fan 590 radio station. “He’s not getting it. He’d come on and he ripped Ovechkin – he should be ashamed of himself, boom boom boom, and called him every name – and that’s when Ovechkin changed.

    “And if you people have noticed – and I haven’t said it on Hockey Night in Canada, I might yet – have you noticed after a game, he just gives it a [fist] pump?” Cherry asked. “Have you noticed that? Have you noticed he’s got nice short hair, he doesn’t look like a wild man anymore? Adam Oates has got to him and said look, get off this celebrity thing. And what happened was, he was more of a celebrity than he was a hockey player. He forgot.

    “And you know, when I went to the Bruins, that’s the same thing happened to me — I got there, they had gold chains on and all that stuff, and they were celebrities there, they forgot to play hockey. They loved the life, they loved the travel, the only thing that got to them, they didn’t like the hockey. And you know, that’s what made Bobby Orr great, and I’ll tell you why: he had no businesses, he did nothing, all he wanted was to play hockey. And that’s the name of the game and Ovechkin’s right there now. He’s playing hockey instead of being a big-time celebrity.”

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  • Published On Apr 25, 2013
  • The collected Twitter wisdom of Don Cherry

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    Don Cherry has a become a Twitter must-read

    Don Cherry’s tweets are often as colorful as his renowned jackets. (Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

    By Allan Muir

    Collecting Don Cherry’s finest moments on Twitter as he approaches the 1,000 tweet milestone might seem a bit like a band putting out a greatest hits compilation right after their first album.

    That just goes to show how often the Hockey Night In Canada legend tweets pure, unadulterated gold.

    Back in the early days, Cherry simply linked to Coach’s Corner videos online, but has since graduated to offering up hot sports opinions and the occasional day-in-the-life stuff which, of course, is the premium material.

    We all know Don doesn’t actually send these tweets himself. He’s a moderate Luddite when it comes to this stuff: he avoids technology himself, but understands the way it can enhance his brand so he has Kathy Broderick, a producer at Hockey Night, do the actual work. Top marks to Kathy, because she does a bang-up job of capturing Don’s voice while translating him into English. No small feat, that.

    Here are some of our favorites so far as we look forward to to next thousand.

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  • Published On Apr 10, 2013
  • Top Line: Gary Bettman on Oprah? Yes, Please!; more links

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    Gary Bettman

    Is the Commissioner keeping things from us that we’d like to know? (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    By Allan Muir

     A simple yes or no question. The great Scott Feschuk imagines a world where the commish channels his inner Lance Armstrong and fesses up on Oprah’s couch. Also, free puppies!

     Something old, something new. True fact. More Minnesotans kept warm during the lockout by wearing a Wild sweater – Zach Parise or Ryan Suter – than by burning an effigy of Bettman. The Wild faithful finally get to see their pricey free agents don the togs tonight, along with rookies Mikael Granlund and Mat Dumba.

     Wishful thinking. The Sens start the season with three goalies and the belief that Ben Bishop could net a top-four defender in trade. Yeah, for a 26-year-old with a 7-8-3 career record.

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  • Published On Jan 19, 2013
  • Is Gary Bettman in trouble?

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    Gary Bettman

    The NHL’s wartime consigliere, Gary Bettman must answer to the Board of Governors in the aftermath of the lockout. (Mary Altaffer/AP)

    By Stu Hackel

    In the aftermath of the lockout, many people have discussed how the NHL should express its regret to fans. ESPN.com’s Pierre Lebrun had a list of 10 things the league could do, the top one being free access to the Center Ice TV package — an idea that others endorse, but it will likely never happen because, as Steve Lepore explained in his Puck The Media blog, it’s not solely the property of the league to give away.

    Ken Campbell of The Hockey News had another idea: Fire Gary Bettman.

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  • Published On Jan 08, 2013
  • Can Kings of the road grab Game 5?

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    Their team in New Jersey, Kings fans in L.A. anxiously await a Cup coronation. (Chris Williams/Icon SMI)

    By Stu Hackel

    Maybe it ends on Saturday night and maybe not. The Kings, who were juuuust good enough to win two overtime games and then ride their home crowd to a more decisive Game 3 victory, dropped Game 4 to the Devils on Wednesday night in another close outing and now must build on their incredible undefeated road record to win the Stanley Cup this weekend.

    The Devils, meanwhile, look to extend their season. Twenty-six teams have lost the first three games of a Cup final. New Jersey is just the sixth to reach Game 5. Only two have pushed the series to a Game 6; both, in fact, went to Game 7. The Maple Leafs came all the way back to win in 1942 against the Red Wings, Detroit nearly returned the favor in 1945, losing to Toronto 2-1 on home ice.

    Although it seems the hockey gods changed allegiances on Wednesday, bestowing a larger share of good luck on New Jersey than they did in the first three contests, the Devils also benefited from better execution. They finally took their own advice and exploited the flaw they detected in Kings goalie Jonathan Quick — shooting high. L.A. meanwhile, played tentatively at times and missed the Devils’ net entirely with their shots on over 20 occasions, the nervous prospect of winning the Cup at home perhaps in their minds. All that should make Game 5 rather interesting.

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  • Published On Jun 08, 2012
  • Will NHL’s Spring of Shame continue?

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    Blackhawks star Marian Hossa was hospitalized by a dangerous illegal headshot of the kind the NHL has been trying to eliminate, not a fight or a clean, hard check. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    What threatens to become the NHL’s Spring of Shame continued on Day 7 of the Stanley Cup playoffs when Marian Hossa was stretchered off in the first period of the Coyotes-Blackhawks game on Tuesday night, the result of a clearly illegal but unpenalized hit by multiple offender Raffi Torres. It was the lasting image on another compelling night of playoff hockey and it overshadowed all else, just as each daily episode of brutal play has done.

    This has to be viewed as a crisis for the NHL. The league was prepared to make this its greatest playoffs ever, especially in the U.S., with NBC and its family of channels pumping every game of every series into homes for the first time. But what will likely be remembered by its growing audience is not the best hockey of the year, but perhaps the most barbaric. Who knows what that will mean in the long run? More on that later.

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  • Published On Apr 18, 2012
  • Mad Mike Milbury’s act is obsolete

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    Mad Mike Milbury often slings sexist cliches like “hit ‘em with your purse.” (Photo by Mary Altaffer/AP)

    By Stu Hackel

    At some point, Mike Milbury is going to have to come to terms with the 21st Century. His future employment as a hockey opinionist on television may depend on it, but the contemporary world is obviously not one in which he is comfortable or happy.

    For a few years, since he left the employ of Charles Wang and the Islanders — we won’t bother rehashing his many questionable moves as Isles GM other than to say they were how he picked up, and even embraced, his nickname “Mad Mike” — Milbury has done triple duty as a studio voice on Hockey Night in Canada, NESN and NBC/Versus/NBC Sports Network. It’s a passionate voice, that’s for sure, and hockey is a passionate game. On the surface, it seems like a good match.

    Milbury’s problem is that his passions too often go unchecked. He clearly has trouble controlling himself when the camera is on and the mic is live, and he says things that reveal thoughts that really don’t do his image much good. He may not care about that, but he’s also a spokesman for the networks who employ him and the sport he’s worked in for pretty much his entire career. In those capacities, he is not exactly a shining representative.

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  • Published On Apr 04, 2012


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