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In recent weeks, a verbal feud has developed between CBC’s Don Cherry and the Washington Capital’s Alexander Ovechkin.

Previously on Coaches’ Corner, Don Cherry criticized the young Ovechkin for his “goofy stuff”—that is, celebrating too much after a goal. Celebrating too much has been a perennial complaint of Cherry’s, and he has criticized players besides Ovechkin for this (Though the other targets are usually European.) 

Unfortunately, Cherry didn’t stop at “goofy stuff”:

“I’m going to tell you about this guy: He’s got a free ride. He runs at guys, does this stuff,” Cherry said. “I am predicting somebody’s going to get him. And somebody’s going to get him good. There’s somebody out there—some big defenceman is going to be sitting in the weeds. As he cuts across centre ice, somebody’s going to cut him in half.”

He goes on to compare Ovechkin’s celebrations to those of soccer players and Sean Avery’s idiocy. To a lot of Canadian hockey players, dems fightin words. But I’m not sure the insult lands as squarely on Ovey’s chin as Cherry intended. After all, soccer/football is the most popular sport on the planet. But to some Canadians, that’s no way to be.

Cherry said, “Kids, be like Thornton, be like Sakic, be like Yzerman…” and so on. However, Don forgets that there’s a clip of Steve Yzerman jumping as if he were on the moon after a goal, which CBC shows at the onset of every Hockey Night in Canada. What’s the difference? Yzerman is Canadian. Ovechkin is Russian. 

And what about Eddie “the Entertainer” Shack? He was an old-time hockey player for Toronto, who couldn’t score like Ovechkin, but was famous for riding his hockey stick like a witches’ broom after a goal. Shack is a legend for his goofy stuff. But Ovechkin, he says, is a showboat. 

But get a load of this: A man who dresses like this

 Don1

like this….

 don2

and like this….

don3
 

is in no position to patronize Alex Ovechkin for “goofy stuff.” 

Cherry also said, “The same guys that think this is entertainment last year thought Avery was entertainment. You know what, it’s the same church, different pew.” Near as I can tell, Don sits on the front row of that same church; for there are plenty of people who can analyze the game as well as Don Cherry does, but they aren’t on CBC every Saturday night. Why? Because they don’t wear flamboyant suits nor do they entertain folks as much. 

Anyway, tonight, there was much anticipation (in Canada, at least) for Don Cherry’s response to Ovechkin’s most recent celebration. Upon scoring his 50th goal, Ovechkin dropped his stick on the ice and pretended it was on fire by attempting to pick it up but not touching it. Many players from the opposing team voiced their displeasure with the show. 

So I wanted to hear what Don was going to say tonight. Wisely, Don Cherry was quite civil and complimentary—he even called Ovechkin the best player in the league. He still maintained that he doesn’t like that kind of celebration. And rightly so: Don is from the old school, and there is a lot to be said for the Canadian tradition. 

Despite what some may say about Cherry, the league needs his older, grumpier voice. But even if he was taught to hate the Russians, he’s got to watch it. He shouldn’t say Russian hockey sucks. He shouldn’t hound Russian players for the very plays he’d call good hockey from Canadians. And he shouldn’t make ominous predictions about players, especially one that sounds vaguely like calling out a mob hit. 

His impunity is startling to me, though. The things Cherry can say on a publicly funded broadcast on CBC would have any US station in scalding hot water. Remember when Rush Limbaugh tried to discredit Donovan McNabb on ESPN? And remember the shitstorm that followed? I’m sure Cherry’s comments would never be tolerated in the States. And on privately owned stations, to boot. 

Even though Ovechkin says he doesn’t care what Don Cherry says about him, I don’t believe him. These big dumb hockey players need to realize how transparent they are. Cherry, despite his antics, is still right most of the time, and I bet it still eats at Ovechkin. That said, Don Cherry is obviously a bit insecure about Russians leading the NHL in scoring. Or perhaps more specifically, a Canadian isn’t leading the scoring. 

Why guys? There is a shit-ton of good hockey players, Candadian, Russian or otherwise. So why can’t hockey be fun and entertaining? Just look at Eddie Shack!
Eddie Shack