You just knew it was coming. Most every sports columnist has been talking about the embarrassment that is the first few days of the NHL playoffs, with head-shots galore, more fights than a WWF convention and way more goon highlights than cool goals.
So of course Don Cherry appears on his prime time pulpit – otherwise known as Coach’s Corner – and barks at the nation to let us know this is real hockey.
He started Coach’s Corner in the first intermission of the Monday night Rangers-Senators game with a strange rambling chat about the fight-fest between Pittsburgh and Phillie Sunday. He was defending Sidney Crosby but for the life of me I couldn’t figure out what Cherry’s point was.
One big part of the whole rant – aka Coach’s Corner – was how impossible us reporters are. He said Crosby is, like Gretzky, so accomodating of reporters, clearly a major sin. Then came Cherry’s defense of the thuggery that’s defined the first games of the playoffs.
“First of all, the fans love it,” said Cherry. “These are the guys that pay the money. The players like it. The coaches like it. So who doesn’t like the fighting? It’s the reporters…..who don’t pay to get in.” (Eds. note: Does Grapes pay full ticket price to see the Leafs?)
To which Cherry’s sidekick Ron MacLean said – “I kind of agree with you on that.” (Eds. note: What a big surprise! Ronnie agreeing with Donnie!)
Then Cherry added: “This is war. This has been going on forever….Quit whining that this stuff has not been going on. If you don’t like it, take up tennis, with your little white shorts.”
Now on one level, this is all kind of comical. Sure Cherry is a cartoon character and all that. But once you stop laughing, you realize it’s just downright weird that our public broadcaster is giving prime on-air real-estate to a guy who’s happy to see millionaire hockey players pounding each other to a pulp. That he’s applauding a game where two of the most talented players in hockey – Crosby and Claude Giroux – get into a couple of punch-ups…..even though both have been sidelined by concussions.
That Penguins-Flyers game Sunday was the NHL at its worst. But apparently the most popular hockey commentator in Canada – and CBC’s most famous personality – thinks that kind of Neanderthal behaviour is just fine’n'dandy. Weird.
P.S. Then, for the Cherry on the sundae, Grapes arrives at the end of the Hockey Night in Canada broadcast to cheer on Bruin captain Zdeno Chara.
“He doesn’t have a mean bone in his body,” says Cherry, who went on to say that’s why he just knew Chara was not trying to hurt Hab Max Pacioretty with that infamous hit.
Of course Don. It was an accident! Chara didn’t even notice he was taking off Pacioretty’s head.
P.S. 2: Apparently the folks at The National don’t share their colleague Cherry’s enthusiasm for the on-ice pugilism. Chris Brown had a highly critical report on the violence in the playoffs on The National Monday. He noted that ratings were up this post-season, particularly in the U.S., while penalty minutes hit a six-year high.