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BHN Puck Links: Is Hockey Really Better Off Without Don Cherry



Clearly Don Cherry is a polarizing figure within the hockey world.

Grapes is opinionated, bombastic and stubborn when it comes to what he believes in,  but he’s also gregarious, generous and undeniably entertaining, which is what had kept him on television for much of the last 30 plus years. The 86-year-old Cherry has been off the air for roughly a year now and Hockey News columnist Ken Campbell says the hockey world is better off for it.

In some ways Campbell is undeniably right.

Cherry was from a different, older generation and was accused of being “divisive” and “xenophobic” while often blending politics, military service and hockey during his Coach’s Corner segment on Hockey Night in Canada. That’s a nearly impossible balancing act. In a world that’s as diverse as it’s ever been and within an NHL where they proudly claim “Hockey Is For Everyone”, Cherry seemed like the grandpa at the holidays saying things that sometimes made everybody else cringe and roll their eyes.

Even worse it made large groups of players, media, coaches, executives and fans alike uncomfortable, with minorities within the hockey world feeling like it was the same old prejudice they’ve encountered in their own personal experiences. So clearly there was a price to be paid when Cherry went on an inappropriate rant about immigrants not wearing poppies while saying “you people that come here…you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey…these guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada.”

And Cherry paid for it with his livelihood and platform on Hockey Night in Canada. All things being equal at his age, Cherry might have even opted for retirement in the wake of COVID-19 anyway had he still been doing Coach’s Corner last season.

Sure, ex-player Kevin Bieksa and longtime executive Brian Burke have stepped in to provide personality and a little good, old-fashioned bluster for the Canadian hockey viewers. But let’s be honest, Hockey Night in Canada isn’t the same without Coach’s Corner and Don Cherry. This humble hockey writer used to watch every Saturday for Cherry and Ron MacLean, and every NHL press box in Canada would huddle around the television between the first and second period to hear what Grapes had to say.

That’s not the case anymore and there’s a sense of loss in that.

Cherry was a unique throwback to a different era that spoke to large swaths of hockey fans and brought unflinching candor to many things (the brutality of the sport, the willingness to call out players or coaches in a league that increasingly shies away from real criticism) that attracted people to hockey in the first place.

Was it the right thing that Cherry was banished after his reckless, hurtful comments? Probably. But the hockey world is a lot more boring in Cherry’s absence and there should be some acknowledgement of that as well. There are plenty of ways in which the hockey world is not a better place at all without Don Cherry. It’s just a lot more boring and plainer, in point of fact.

Now on to the puck links:

*Speaking of Hockey Night in Canada, they apparently missed out on having Alex Trebek as a part of it because he had a mustache. Can you believe that? (Hockey News)

*The Boston Bruins have moved on from Tuukka Rask leaving the playoff bubble last summer. Is that the right move for their future? (NBC Sports)

*Apparently former Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Roman Cechmanek is facing up to 10 years in prison. (Broad Street Hockey)

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Elliotte Freidman has the latest on what the NHL could look like when it finally resumes in January.

*Cool story about hockey people coming together to keep the University of Alabama-Huntsville hockey program going, including a $17 million boost led by NHL goalie Cam Talbot. (NBC Sports)

*What do the Toronto Maple Leafs need to do to become Stanley Cup champions? It’s pretty simple and it’s about paying attention to defense. Maybe a little more maturity from some of their young star players as well. (Leafs Nation)

*Is Erik Karlsson still elite? The jury is definitely out on that one. (San Jose Hockey Now)

*For something completely different: An interesting case here for fixing social media being in the best interest of national security. (The New Yorker)

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