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Sports & Recreation Hockey

Don Cherry's Hockey Greats and More

by (author) Don Cherry

Doubleday Canada
Initial publish date
Oct 2018
Hockey, Sports, History
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2018
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2019
    List Price

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Broadcasting icon and bestselling author Don Cherry is back to give us more of what we want: behind-the-scenes sports stories that are as colourful as his wardrobe.

For the last sixty years, Don Cherry has lived and breathed hockey. He has interviewed all of hockey's biggest names on Grapevine and "Coach's Corner," and he coached some of them too. But Don's interests span across all sports, and even beyond. In this unforgettable book, Don grants us unparalleled insider access to some of the most legendary athletes and figures of our time.

Follow Don to the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs and to the pitcher's mound at Rogers Centre (and learn how the Blue Jays' Josh Donaldson saved his neck). Jet back in time to meet Bobby Hull, Phil Esposito, Scotty Bowman, John Ferguson and other greats--up close and unfiltered. Discover Don's opinions on the toughest guys he ever played against, "hockey parents," the role of fighting in the game, and the Hall of Fame (and who should be in it). Learn about Don's friendship with Gord Downie--the incomparable late frontman of the Tragically Hip and a lifelong hockey fan.

This is Don Cherry in all his hilarious and frank glory, spinning his yarns with the best of them.

About the author

Contributor Notes

Most fans of DON CHERRY know him for his blistering seven minutes of "Coach's Corner" on Hockey Night in Canada, but they might have forgotten Don's incredible journey through the world of hockey. In 1955, he played his one and only NHL game for the Boston Bruins. He then went on to coach in just about every level of hockey, from high school, to the American league, to the OHL, to International, to the NHL. Don won a state High School Championship, a Canada Cup, Coach of the Year in the AHL and the NHL, and has a .601 winning percentage in the NHL. After his coaching career, a chance appearance on Hockey Night in Canada launched a 35-year-long broadcasting career. In 2004, Don was voted the 7th All-Time Greatest Canadian and in 2015, Don and his "Coach's Corner" partner Ron MacLean were inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame. His Rock'em Sock'em videos are all-time bestsellers and his syndicated radio show, Grapeline, has been on the air for over 30 years. Don's just about done it all: player, coach, television and radio star, restaurateur and bestselling author.

Excerpt: Don Cherry's Hockey Greats and More (by (author) Don Cherry)

Scotty Bowman is the winningest coach of all time. He has over 1,200 wins in the NHL, he’s won nine Stanley Cups as a coach and a total of 14 Stanley Cups as a coach and executive. He’s the only coach to win the Cup with three different teams, and he won the Jack Adams Award for NHL coach of the year twice.

Of course, I was coaching the Bruins and Scotty was coaching the Canadiens when we met in the Stanley Cup final in 1977 and ’78. In 1977, we lost to them four games straight. In ’78, we lost in six games. We met again in the ’79 semifinals, and we were ready this time. Both teams knew whoever won this series was a shoo-in to win the Cup because they would meet the winner of the New York Rangers–New York Islanders series. Neither the Bruins nor Montreal had had a problem with either of those teams in the regular season.
Just before the series, one of our defencemen, Mike Milbury, who now does a great job on the NBC telecasts, was asked what he thought about playing Montreal for the third time in a row. Mike said, “Well, the first time we played them in the finals, we were maybe a little happy just to be in the finals and gave them too much respect. The next year, we were a little more familiar with them and now we knew this guy is a little bit of a backstabber and this guy a little shy in the corner. Now, this time we can’t stand the SOBs.”

After our morning skate in the Forum, Mike was on the bench, looking up at all of the Canadiens’ Stanley Cup banners. One of the Montreal press corps asked Mike if he was in awe of all the historical banners hanging from the rafters. Mike said, “No, I was just thinking how chintzy they looked.”

That was our mentality during this series.

During that series, Scotty and I were going at it in the newspa­per. I remember saying, “I can’t believe I’m getting beaten by a guy who wears brown Wallabees with a blue suit.”

Before we taped the Grapevine show with Scotty, I was wearing a really loud suit. Executive producer Ralph Mellanby said maybe I should wear something a little tamer. For the show, I wore a really sharp maroon jacket with a great polka dot tie. When Scotty came out for the show, he was wearing a tux and a bow tie.

Don: Where are your brown Wallabees?

Scotty: Well, I’m the best-dressed coached now. No, those shoes were from Finland—they weren’t those Hush Puppies.

Don: Remember the 1979 semifinals when I put too many men on the ice?

Scotty: Oh, yes, I think I remember. That was in the playoffs, wasn’t it?
Don: No, seriously, did you see right off the bat there were too many? Truthfully, did you notice it?

Scotty: I was so excited I couldn’t even count to six myself. One of the players yelled there were seven guys on the ice. So we started yelling at the linesman, and of course, I think it was John D’Amico called the penalty. I felt bad about it. But I was hoping we’d score, though, and I wanted to tie the game up.

Don: Sure, you felt sorry for, what, five seconds?

Like I said, Scotty and I were at war in the press. The day after the games, Scotty would call the press into his office and show videos of all the penalties (or what he thought were penalties) that the refs didn’t call. Then the press came running over to me to tell me what Scotty said. I was saying the refs and NHL wanted a Montreal–New York final for TV ratings.

We went back and forth like that the entire series. The NHL was not too happy, but the press and the fans loved it. Back then, during the playoffs, Hockey Night in Canada broadcast the games and WSBK TV38 in Boston picked up the feed. I started saying that Hockey Night in Canada was biased and was pro-Montreal. I wasn’t kidding. When Stan Jonathan and Pierre Bouchard went at it, they didn’t show a replay. I knew that Hockey Night in Canada didn’t show replays of fights, but I said the reason they didn’t show that replay was because it was a Bruin beating up on a Canadien.

The Boston press and fans went nuts protesting Hockey Night in Canada’s treatment of the Bruins on their broadcast. A few games later, Mario Tremblay and Bobby Schmautz got into a fight and Mario cut Schmautzy. I left the bench in the middle of the game and ran into the control room where executive producer Ralph Mellanby was and said, “You didn’t show a replay of the Jonathan fight—you better not show this one.”
I think Ralph thought I was crazy.

I also noticed something else that seemed to have Hockey Night in Canada on Montreal’s side.

Don: In Montreal, you were always looking for an edge. I know for a fact that you went to Hockey Night in Canada when we were playing you and said, “Look, when Guy Lafleur is tired and wants a rest, I’ll adjust my tie and you go to commercial.” Why is it that you want the edge over everybody?

Scotty: We had it figured out that every time we got a power play or a penalty situation, we wanted a rest. We didn’t tell them when to call for a commercial. We just said, “When the other team gets a penalty, we’d like to get a rested power play.” I guess the guy was a good hockey fan and maybe a Canadiens fan . . .

Don: You and I had a thing going in the papers that series. After the series, John Ziegler (the president of the NHL at the time) sent me a letter and it said, “Don, I want to congratu­late you, the Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens on a stir­ring and unforgettable series. So it’s with deep regret that I’m fining you $1,000.” Did you get that letter?

Scotty: For us going back and forth in the press? Yes, I got one, but it was “Congratulations on a great series, I’m fining you $1,000.”

After that series, both Scotty and I left our teams. I always joke that I was fired because of the penalty for too many men and stuff like that, but the truth is that Harry Sinden and the Bruins did offer me a contract. But if I took it, I’d have to be more like man­agement—not be as friendly with the players and be less friendly with the press. I knew I couldn’t agree to that. I think Harry knew that as well, and I said no.
So, after five years in Boston with four straight first-place fin­ishes, two trips to the finals, two trips to the semifinals and a winning percentage of .636, I left and went to Colorado. Scotty had been with Montreal for eight years, and with six first-place finishes, four Stanley Cups and a winning percentage of .661, he went to Buffalo.
Don: Four Stanley Cups and you leave Montreal. Why?

Scotty: Like anything else, I think it was time to move on. What it came down to was I was going to have to report to Irving Grundman. Irving and I never had a problem—he never bothered me and I never bothered him and I respected him as a businessman. I would have reported to Jean Béliveau. Jean Béliveau was a hockey man. He was not high-profile with the team at the time, but I couldn’t get involved with someone who I didn’t respect as a hockey man. Like I said, I respected him as a businessman. It was time to move on. You had already gone to Colorado; I wasn’t going to have any more fun in Montreal, so time to go.

Don: Why didn’t you go two years earlier? I would have had two Cup rings.

Scotty is right when he said it was time to go. Coaches, no matter how good they are or how much they win, know there is a time to leave. I feel a coach starts to lose it when he’s with a club for five years. After that, I think the players start to tune him out. They know all his tricks, they’ve heard all the speeches, it starts to get a little tired. I had been with the Bruins for five years, I loved Boston and the players, but deep down I knew it was time to go, just like Scotty knew it was time to leave Montreal.
We taped this show in 1982, and it’s hard to believe that Scotty went on to win four more Stanley Cups.

I was an assistant coach to Scotty in the 1976 Canada Cup. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this was the greatest team that was ever put together. We had six centres on the team: the Flyers’ Bobby Clarke, the Kings’ Marcel Dionne, Montreal’s Peter Mahovlich, the Sabres’ Gilbert Perreault, the Leafs’ Darryl Sittler, and Phil Esposito, who was in New York. Just those cen­tremen alone had combined for 614 points the year before. It was going to be hard for Scotty to keep everyone happy, and even though I interviewed Phil eight years after that series, he was still not happy.

Don: All right, Phil, let’s talk about ’76. I think that was one of the best teams ever put together, but I got to ask, what was the deal with you and Scotty?

Phil: Well, at the time I didn’t like Scotty Bowman and he didn’t like me. I don’t think he wanted me on the team, number one. I believe he was forced by either you or Alan Eagleson to have me on the team because of what I’d done in ’72, and I didn’t want any part of that. I wanted to make it on my own laurels and I thought I did. Playing with Bobby Hull was a natural because I played with Bobby for three years in Chicago and we fit together. Mr. Bowman wanted Marcel Dionne, he wanted speed demons.

The next year, when I interviewed Scotty, I asked about Phil.

Don: Scotty and I coached in the ’76 series, and when we were in Montreal, you told me that if you Don: It’s the Grapevine, go ahead.

Scotty: We were playing the Russians in Toronto, and we all decided that we wanted a little more speed on the team. Unfortunately, the trainer, through some error during a morning skate, gave Phil a black sweater. Phil went up to you and asked what the deal was and you said, “Better ask Scotty.”

Don: Yes, I can remember like yesterday, we were at the Toronto airport and Phil asked me what was going on. I told him, “Well, there’s Scotty. Ask him.” So Scotty comes walking down the hall and Phil goes up to him and gives it to Scotty pretty good.

Scotty and I had a laugh during the interview about that, but it wasn’t funny at the time. Scotty and Phil went at it pretty good. Phil was upset because a black sweater made him a “Black Ace,” which means you’re not playing. The Black Aces started with Eddie Shore in Springfield. When you were in the doghouse or weren’t playing, you practised in the black sweater. The reason it was black was that it hid the dirt better and Shore didn’t have to wash it as often. I was one of Shore’s Black Aces, and soon through­out hockey the black practice sweater was like a scarlet letter.
Scotty: There was Keith Allen, Don Cherry, Bobby Kromm, Al MacNeil, Sam Pollock, but if something went wrong, I was the guy that had to deal with it. The audience must know the famous goal that beat Czechoslovakia.

Don: I’m sure they [do,] but tell them again.

Scotty: Well, Don would come up to me before the game and say, “What do you want me to do tonight?” I’d say, “Go up to the box with Sam [Pollock] and keep Sam calm. If you got any messages, pass them down.” We got into overtime against Czechoslovakia in the finals and Al MacNeil was with you and Bobby Kromm was with me, and we get a message from Don that Czechoslovakia’s goalie, [Vladimír] Dzurilla, was really starting to come out. He was gambling. Don said, “If we get a chance, tell the guys to not just shoot, because they are not going to score. Just hold it and go wide.” Darryl Sittler came down the ice and the Czechoslovakia players came running out at him, Darryl went wide, and as soon as he put it in, we all looked at Don from the bench and started waving.

Don: Go figure. Harry fired me in Boston two years later.

Editorial Reviews

National Bestseller
"Hockey Greats and More cleaves to the format that's worked in the past, lively chapters offering his take on hockey greats and friends, plus his unvarnished issues of the day." —Toronto Star

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