Thursday, June 05, 2008

Where was Grapes?

Hokey Night in Canada -- that's not a misspelling -- was squeezed for time last night.

Nicklas Lidström, as you know, became the first European captain to be presented with the Stanley Cup. It was an event that many a Don Cherry acolyte from Buena Vista to Vancouver Island had sworn up and down would never happen, although they only say it after their favourite team is eliminated.

Why didn't HNIC try to create some compelling television during its post-game wrap-up of the Detroit Red Wings' Stanley Cup win? The game ended around 10:40 Eastern time and the show signed off shortly after midnight. There was plenty of time to do a quick throw to the studio in between virtually everyone above the backup stickboy on the Red Wings' depth chart to introducing his extended family and say hi to everyone watching back in Harbour Grace or Rocky Mountain House.

Ron MacLean should have put the obvious question to Don Cherry: How do you feel, after all the things you've said about European players all these years, about Lidström?

That's called responsible journalism -- asking tough questions, following up. One gut feeling is that is that Cherry would have risen to the moment and mustered up the grace to say nice things about the Wings and their seven Swedes, admit maybe he was wrong. (One report out of Detroit suggests he was sticking to the songbook on ESPN in between periods, but once the Wings had the Cup in their hands, perhaps he would have changed the tune).

People who have followed Cherry's act know there's a complexity to the man that gets drowned out by the bombast and the breast-beating. Based on the way he came across in the book the late George Plimpton wrote after spending time at a Boston Bruins training camp in the late '70s, he valued the concept of nobility and that Hemingwayan grace under pressure.

He knows, or at least knew once, how to be gracious in defeat better than Hillary Clinton ever would. The gut feeling is that Cherry would have nutted up and admitted that, yes, Swedes and Russian and Czech players are just as virtuous as Canadian players. There's a chance he would also been stubborn and refused to budge.

Either way, considering the CBC is government-funded Crown corporation, inquiring minds had a right to know. Cherry, after a quarter-century of entertaining us and bashing more than a few European players, should have been in the spotlight.

In fairness, MacLean was needed to perform on-ice interviews. Perhaps Ron and Don's personal preference was to "let the players tell the story," since goodness knows, they do get prolix about the great Canadian grinder.

However, that's an instance of the talent's egos becoming bigger than the production. It's also a cop-out, since your and my tax dollars go to CBC Sports to produce good sports TV, not to produce a high school video yearbook disguised as a post-game wrapup, which is the nicest thing you can say about last night's coast-to-coast cornfest.

One is left to assume that Cherry was a sore loser about the Swedes. That's not fair to him. CBC Sports did poorly by a national treasure. Shame on them.

(Disclaimer: One might feel a bit differently if CBC had spent more time with the women in Kirk Maltby's life — Wife? Sister? Girlfriend? ... also, it's on the wire that HNIC might ditch its iconic theme music. This is akin to changing the drapes because your house is falling down.)

Wings' champs deal death blow to 'weak' Euro myths (Drew Sharp, Detroit Free Press)
McGuire gets the assist as NBC beats CBC (William Houston,
Despicable Don (Red Wings Snapshots,

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