Bruce Arthur in the National Post said the legendary hockey commentator has gone from "from straight-talkin' sensation to walking caricature." There is an editorial today in the Vancouver Province ("Cherry totally out of touch") and sassback from a good Carbonear, N.L., boy Dan Cleary from the Detroit Red Wings team which purportedly no one wants to watch because it has too many Europeans, but which is also the biggest road draw in the NHL: "He's getting up there. Who won it all last year? Perhaps he's forgotten." Arthur, though, takes the cake:
"Cherry has done a lot of good for hockey, and for charity, and for the CBC's bottom line. But popularity aside, Don Cherry has almost become the George W. Bush of hockey: Ignorant, ideological, dismissive of the facts, governed by his gut. The crotchety grandfather act can still be fun, but overall, the CBC looks worse every year for his presence."Please set aside that Dubya comparisons are a no-no (too easy, too obvious, too painful a reminder) and ignore that those links are all from papers in the same chain. It is worth asking how long Cherry has left on his CBC Sports contract. People have taken up rhetorical pitchforks against Cherry before and so long as people have trouble separating their own leanings from what's real, it will be hard to tell if this amount to much, especially since CBC Sports digs in every time.
Cherry actually reached the point of caricature at least five years ago. It seems like the media might feel more emboldened this time around. Who knows, perhaps the Feb. 3 Macleans article by Charlie Gillis which detailed how Cherry used Mike Sanderson, the father of the late Don Sanderson, to advance his agenda has had more impact than it did when it appeared one month ago today.
" 'Other people won’t understand this,' Don Cherry told his coast-to-coast audience after attending Donald Sanderson's memorial service in Port Perry, Ont. 'But Mike is a hockey guy.'It is understandable that some people might say Cherry is being scapegoated at a time when it's an in-thing to seem progressive and sensitive, but that's just obfuscation writ large. This all comes back a core principle of the late, great Fire Joe Morgan: Someone who paid to offer informed commentary on a sporting event is professionally obligated to keep up with what's current in terms of analyzing the sport.
" ... So if you’ve been gathering your information on this slow-moving controversy from Coach’s Corner, it may surprise you to learn that Michael Sanderson would in fact love to see fighting eliminated from the game. You may be shocked to hear he supports measures that would suffocate the practice. Automatic ejections? 'Helluva rule.' Requiring players to keep their helmets and visors on during fights? 'Great. If they know they’re going to be punching plastic with their bare hands, they’ll eventually stop.'
"... Oh, and one more thing: he’s no friend of Don Cherry, with whom he says he has 'issues.' 'He said we sat there like we were buddies [at Donald's funeral],' Sanderson says tightly. 'I'm, like, no we didn’t.' "
Cherry has not done that in quite some time. During the Stanley Cup final last spring, he insisted Gary Roberts was the most important player in the series when he was getting third-line minutes. He was nowhere to be found after the decisive game when he should have been eating crow and congratulating Nicklas Lidstrom for becoming the first European to captain a Cup winner.
Throw in the fact that it's a big small-l liberal love-in during the first days of the Obama presidency, and it's bad news for Cherry. There is probably no literal connection between the two, but not so long ago you wouldn't have heard Canadian sportswriters rising to the defence of soccer players, like Arthur did on Monday:
"But it was the way Cherry presented his case that left the usual sour taste. Besides the usual anti-European bile ... Cherry showed a montage of soccer players celebrating, and as it showed a group of four enthusiastic black players dancing close to the camera, Cherry said, 'Now watch this, look at this - this is what we want our hockey players to act like?'Some might argue that is a little strong, but the gloves are off with CBC Sports for having allowed it to reach this point, Ron-and-Don are bigger than the franchise. Rank-and-file fans in Marmora might not care, but it's held Hockey Night in Canada back (and it's an affront to the legacy of Ralph Mellanby, who always wanted a show that was cutting-edge).
"The charge of racism has been thrown at Cherry over his treatment of Europeans and Francophone Canadians, but because those aren't traditionally identifiable minorities, the charges don't seem to stick. But intentionally or not, this looked for all the world like a more familiar brand of racism." -- Arthur
Cherry, in his heyday, brought some levity and a sense of fun to Hockey Night in Canada, but it has long reached the point where it's consumed the man entirely. Things have kind of caught up him in the last little while. Of course, assuming anything is about to change presumes the CBC has its finger on the pulse of the country, and that's a bigger leap of logic than claiming Red Wings attendance has more to do with how many Swedes they have than the Michigan economy.