#1 National Bestseller
Don Cherry has been named a National Hockey League Coach of the Year with a winning percentage of over .600 and also received Coach of the Year honours in the American Hockey League. His comments on Hockey Night in Canada’s "Coach's Corner" routinely make headlines as they entertain, educate, and often upset some fans throughout North America. He may be controversial, but no one can deny the popularity he enjoys; popularity that was reflected in his top 10 ranking in the competition to determine "The Greatest Canadian."
Now from Grapes himself comes the book that hockey fans of all ages have been waiting for. Written with veteran sports journalist Al Strachan, here are Don Cherry's favourite stories from his career in hockey. And you can imagine the stories he has to tell.
About the authors
Al Strachan is a journalist and former columnist for the Toronto Sun, The Globe and Mail, and The Montreal Gazette. He was a regular commentator on Hockey Night in Canada and The Score, and The Satellite Hot Stove. Strachan has been writing about hockey and hanging out with NHL players, coaches, general managers, and owners for thirty years. He is a member of the media section of the Hockey Hall of Fame. Connect with him on Twitter @Winsford99.
Excerpt: Don Cherry's Hockey Stories and Stuff (by (author) Don Cherry; with Al Strachan)
People always ask me who’s the toughest guy I ever played with or played against. When you spend your career in the minors, there are a lot of them. Connie “Mad Dog” Madigan. Sandy “Stone Face” Hucul and Bill “The Destroyer” Shvetz. I’ll talk about those guys later.
But I think the nastiest guy I ever saw was Larry “The Rock” Zeidel. He was from Montreal and I played with him in my second year in Hershey. I don’t know how he got to our club, but he got to our club and he was my partner, and I knew there was going to be problems. He said that when we set up behind the net, when he’s in one corner and I’m in the other and he’s got the puck, that we should holler plays like football. We should holler “X” or “Y” or “Z.”
I’m thinking, “Oh boy, this guy is really something.”
I remember when we were on the road and we got new gloves and Obie O’Brien, our captain, went to see a doctor in Cleveland, and while Obie was in there, all of a sudden, the bottles started to bounce all around in the doctor’s office. Larry was out in the waiting room and he was punchin’ the walls. He said, “Hey, we gotta break these gloves in.”
Eddie Shore, “The Edmonton Express” because he had played in Edmonton even though he was from Saskatchewan, was a mean, nasty guy who could take pain and he loved to dish it out. I think the more you hurt him, the better he liked it. And I know he liked to hurt the other guy.
He used to come out on the ice with a cape, if you can believe it. He thought he was Superman. He was a Saskatchewan boy and he started out as a bronco buster. He didn’t start skatin’ until it was kinda late, but once he took to it, look out!
He had more injuries, and was he tough! He played with stitches in his leg and when they broke open, he just kept on playin’. There was blood all over the place. One game, he had a broken jaw and a broken nose, lost some of his teeth and kept on playin’.
One practice, he almost lost his ear and the doctor wanted to cut it off. Eddie said, “There’s no way you're cuttin’ it off,” and he went and found a doctor who would work on it, and believe it or not, he didn’t take any painkillers or needles or anything.
He even put the needle where he wanted it and told the guy how to sew him up right. He knew everything. He really did. Even how to be a surgeon. He had everything down pat.
* * *
Shore thought he was a chiropractor, doctor, rocket scientist, everything. If you ever thought you had a headache or a cold or anythin’, he always thought it came from your neck, if you can believe it.
He did it to me once. He had monstrous hands for a little guy, and he’d grab your neck. He’d twist your neck and try to crack your neck. He’d holler, “Relax! Relax!”
How can you relax when he’s tryin’ to break your neck?
So we’re all in the dressing room waitin’ to go out one time, and some guy makes the mistake of saying he didn’t feel well, so Eddie goes and grabs the guy’s head and starts twistin’ it this way, twistin’ it that way, twistin’ it this way.
There was a guy named Dennis Olsen who really had a dry sense of humour and we’re all quiet, sittin’ there, and out of the blue sky, Dennis looks at Eddie and he says, “Eddie, can I ask you a question?”
Eddie just glares at him and says, “Yes.”
And Dennis says, “Did one of those ever come off in your hands?”
Eddie was not amused.
It was January 4, 1987, and I get a call that I was supposed to go down to the CBC and help Brian Williams with the World Junior Championship. It wasn’t Hockey Night in Canada calling, it was CBC.
Well, I didn’t really want to go. I just didn’t feel like it.
The fact is, I had a hangover to start with. Besides, the NFL playoffs were on and I figure who the heck is going to be watching the CBC when the NFL playoffs are on?
Also, it was kinda dicey whether Canada would win, but if they won this game and the next game, they’d win the gold.
So the game’s going along pretty good and Canada’s winning, and it’s near the end of the first period. All of a sudden, I look up and all the Russians come on the ice. Well, everybody knows why the Russians come on the ice. They had no chance of winning the gold. Canada had a good chance.
The Russians watched to see if they were gonna get beat, and they were. The coach sent everybody on.
Well, the Canadian coach was Bert Templeton, and what’s he gonna do? Pat Burns was the assistant coach. What’s he gonna do? Are they gonna hold their guys there while twenty guys beat up six? So out they go.
It’s the first time in my life – and I’ve been through hockey for a million games – that I’ve seen every guy goin’ at it. I understand the Canadian trainer punched out their trainer. Even the backup goalies were goin’ at it.
And if you remember, they couldn’t stop it. The referees just skated off the ice.
Then they turned off the lights.
Brendan Shanahan told me after, “You should have seen what we were doin’ while the lights were out.”
So they finally get broke up and Brian Williams, who’s the host of the CBC show, comes on and says, “It’s a black mark. These boys have to learn that they can not be hoodlums.” And he’s goin’ on like that.
I understand that one of the team executives went in and gave it to them in the dressing room after, and the kids were crying. And I have to say that the three guys who were doin’ the broadcast and the colour didn’t stick up for them, either.
So I says, “What the hell? I’ve been on television long enough, I guess,” so I’m gonna go down swingin’.
So Brian’s goin’ on about it bein’ a black mark and a disgrace and I turned to him and said, “Look, if you don’t send those kids on the ice, what are you gonna do? Are you gonna let twenty Russians beat up six Canadians?”
I went on like that. I thought I was finished, ’cause you’re not supposed to say that kids should be sent out to beat up other kids and stuff like that. The CBC was a little touchy at the time.
When we went away for a break, I said, “Brian, if you say about these kids one more time that it’s a black mark against them – you say it one more time – and I’m gonna grab you right on television.”
He knew I was serious, so he moved his seat.
I see Mike Milbury on television on TSN. I see him on NBC. I see him on the Bruins’ TV broadcast. He has become Mr. Hockey on television in the States and now with CBC.
I wonder if he knows how close he came to not being involved in hockey, at least with the Boston Bruins.
In Rochester, when I was unemployed, I coached a high school hockey team. It was in Pittsford. Pittsford is a very rich little suburb on the outskirts of Rochester. They have a lot of money and I was unemployed, so I coached the high school. But I never got paid for it. Bob Clark, a lawyer and one-time part owner of the Rochester Americans, who was a good friend of mine who lived there, asked me if I’d coach the high school team, so I did.
While I was there, I had a young defenceman by the name of John Hoff, and he went on to play in the Ivy League at Colgate. He came back one summer, and I was coachin’ Boston by then. He was tellin’ me about playing at Colgate and said, “Boy, there’s a guy there you should get a look at. He’s a big, tough defenceman. He’s not bad. His name is Mike Milbury.”
Well, I forgot all about it.
The NHL teams always have a meeting in the summer and they go over who’s comin’ to training camp. We had about sixty guys comin’, and for some reason, I said to the head scout, John Carlton, “John, isn't there a guy who plays around here, plays for a college like Colgate or Cornell or somethin’? Mulberry or somethin’?”
“Mulberry?” he says. “I don’t know any Mulberrys. Oh, you mean Mike Milbury! Yeah, he’s not bad.”
“Okay,” says I, “put him down. Add him to the end of the list. We’ll give him a chance anyhow.”
So he was about the sixty-first. That’s how close he came to not comin’ to the Bruins.
One time we were flyin’ back from Atlanta. Harry wouldn’t get us a charter, so we had to get up at five in the morning and fly back, and we couldn’t land in Boston because there was a snowstorm. We had to fly on to Hartford and land there.
I’m often asked, “What was the scariest plane trip you’ve ever taken?”
Well, there has been a lot. I told you the story about the one into Chicago when we circled in the plane over Lake Michigan trying to get into Chicago O’Hare.
But I think the very worst was this one.
I’ll tell you, you couldn’t believe the snowstorm. You couldn’t see anythin’. We were bouncin’ all over and we were sittin’ at the back.
We really thought this was the biscuit. Some of the guys were really nervous. We thought we were gonna have it right there.
I said, “Well, guys, if we go down, we go down in first spot.”
There was a pause, and then Milbury said from the back, “Yeah, and with a game in hand.”
Everybody broke up at that one.
We finally landed in Hartford. We had to go and get cars, believe it or not. This is the National Hockey League and they didn’t have a bus waitin’ for us. We had to rent cars, take our equipment in the cars, get back and play the Canadiens, who had been in their beds while we were playin’ in Atlanta. That story is comin’ up.
"Never one to mix words, [Don] Cherry provides an analysis that transcends the reporting found in printed dailies, websites, and typical television broadcasts. That is what he is most often criticized for: not being like everyone else. Cherry provides poignant analysis about the game of hockey that escapes most other commentators. He endeavours to elucidate the small moments within a game that may appear inconsequential, but are integral to the outcome: a failure to clear the zone, a player shying away from a check, a poor line change. This is where Cherry is most valuable as a commentator. As a former coach, one who found great success, he is able to give viewers insights unlike anyone else."
—Ian Smart, 411mania.com
“Don Cherry in print sounds just like Don Cherry over the air…. If you like Cherry, you’ll like this.”
— Toronto Star
Other titles by Don Cherry
Other titles by Al Strachan
Hockey's Hot Stove
The Untold Stories of the Original Insiders
Gretzky: His Game, His Story
Over the Line
Wrist Shots, Slap Shots, and Five-Minute Majors
Why The Leafs Still Suck
And How They Can Be Fixed
Why The Leafs Suck And How They Can Be Fixed
Go to the Net
Eight Goals That Changed the Game