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CBC Doesn’t Care If You Chastise Cherry, Just That You Care Enough to Watch

October 23, 2011 2 comments

[originally post for www.betonhockey.com on October 20/11. Link here]

I’m nearly convinced that if Hockey Night In Canada didn’t feature Coach’s Corner with Don Cherry and Ron McLean, CBC would probably lose hockey broadcasting contracts to superior stations like TSN, Sportsnet, et al, and possibly fold as a network altogether.

"Ron, my head hurts from too much crazy."

The main reason being, if Canadians didn’t have Don Cherry’s over the top, stubborn, biased, bipolar opinions to either champion or string him up for, the public would call for the end of their tax-dollars to fund the public network.

Take his recent comments for example:

On the October 6th broadcast of HNIC’s Coach’s Corner, Cherry (who hadn’t lambasted anyone since last season) went on the offensive, saying Brendan Shanahan is bringing hitting in hockey to an end (citing Scott Stevens in particular, and questioning how many games he would be suspended for after his hits on Paul Kariya, Eric Lindros, etc), which I agree with; made a point about everyone jumping on the link between fighting in hockey and depression/suicide, mental illness, drug & alcohol addiction, etc., saying it’s not just fighters who have these problems (a recent study confirms this) and saying that everyone who’s against fighting should be ashamed of themselves; and then throws three former fighters (Stu Grimson, Chris Nilan, and Jim Thompson) under the bus after apparently quoting George Laraque (according to Ron McLean, who coincidentally has a new book out to promote), calling them pukes and turncoats for not supporting fighting in hockey.

As much heat as he got for the comments, I agree with the first two points (the end of hitting, and issues only happening to fighters).  The third was where things went sideways, and those 3 players he singled out threatened legal action against Cherry for what he said about them.  I’m sure I don’t need to read a Nielsen ratings report to tell that HNIC was heavily viewed and talked out the whole time.

Then on October 8th, Cherry said he only regretted saying the word “puke” while kids were watching, because it’s rude.

Then on the October 15th broadcast, Cherry decided to apologize to everyone, and the group of 3, saying some of his comments were erroneous.  He also mentioned about how awesome all three of the guys are, and probably called them all beauties at some point.  A bit of a turnaround from just being worried about kids hearing him say a bad word on television.  The group then dropped their legal threats.

This is the same guy who makes Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em DVD’s every year, which prominently promote big hits, fights, and a little bit of hockey in between.  Don’s an old-school cat, and that’s all good.  But I find his stance on fighting a little odd.  Cherry’s a guy that will go out of his way to stand up for fighting in hockey, and even go on TV and tell everyone how both Canadians and Americans want to see fights at hockey games, and how it’s a main part of why fans come to or watch hocke games on TV at all.  But while preaching to this UFC, WWE, boxing, fighting-as-entertainment brainwashed crowd, he’s the first to send guys like Arron Asham, Tie Domi, and Donald Brashear to the gallows the minute after they mime some sort of taunt after winning a fight.  So what’s the message Cherry and other hockey “traditionalists” are trying to convey to these “outlaws”, exactly?  Ok toughguys, go out there, hit each other as hard as you possibly can as many times as you can, beat each other’s brains out, entertain bloodthirsty fans and make them scream and cheer, BUT DON’T YOU DARE appear to be happy with yourself afterwards if you emerge victorious.  We won’t tolerate that kind of behaviour.  We all know that they best way to teach a player not to take cheapshots at your star players is to go and fight the other team’s toughguy, who was completely removed from the incident you’re trying to bring justice to.

At the end of the day, here’s all that matters:  the fact that you’re watching.  The fact that you’re talking about Don Cherry, searching about the incident on the internet, have an opinion either way, care enough to formulate an opinion at all.  All these points go to prove valuable when CBC tries to negotiate a new sponsor.  If CBC (or any television station for that matter) cared about whether Don Cherry was a politically correct character fit to appear in front of a national audience, odds are he would have been fired years ago, around the time he wore earrings, put on a Conehead, or bicep-curled an octopus on TV.  Don Cherry is a sideshow, not much different than Sean Avery, or Jeremy Roenick in his latter years.

The monkeys are dancing, so just enjoy the show(or hate it.  Whatever you do, just don’t not watch)!  Besides, I’d take Don Cherry over Pierre McGuire any day.

Blackhawks Breakdown, Torres-Seabrook, Rule Confusion, & The Elements Of A Championship Team.

April 19, 2011 5 comments

Ok, back to me 🙂

I’m not even an official Chicago Blackhawks fan, but I hate seeing what’s happened to them.

To see last year’s Stanley Cup champions reduced to backing into the 8th seed playoff spot via hopes of others’ misfortune, and now having their asses handed to them by their archrivals is really quite stark in contrast to the Hawks club that celebrated curbing the greatly publicized Chicago Cup drought not so long ago. 

There are two things that strike me about the situation.  One is that it really speaks to the team aspect – how many “cogs” working in harmony it takes to win a championship.  When you think about the Chicago Blackhawks, the names that come to mind most often are probably Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.  Obviously they have other strong players, but those two are largely painted as the poster boys for that franchise; and rightfully so.  When the team’s “gutting” unfolded last season, the optimistic ones surely felt that as long as those two were on the roster, they’d be ok.  It’s right about now that the (at times) overshadowed, and perhaps underappreciated necessity of now delinquent Adam Burish, Ben Eager, John Madden, Kris Versteeg, Dustin Byfuglien, and Anti Niemi (the latter few got their share of attention, mind you) would be welcomed in their lineup.  Even with guys like Hossa, Keith, Seabrook, heck even coach Joel Quenneville, they just can’t pull it back together to what it was. 

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying those dealt away are the secret to success, because with four of those players on teams not even in the playoffs this year, clearly that’s not the case.  The point I want to make is to show another example of how a team will not necessarily survive on talent alone – look at Montreal again in these playoffs for example – and how necessary it is for the “stars to align” to bring that just-right mix of guys together who can truly function as a working unit and accomplish an ultimate goal.  It’s a lot easier said than done; just ask Teemu Selanne and Paul Kariya about their conspiracy to both take less money to play together in Colorado to try and win a Cup in2003.

Better days in the Madhouse.

 I really wanted good Canadian kid Jonathan Toews to come out on top, and prove everyone wrong by winning again.  I sort of get the feeling Patrick Kane’s content with scoring the Cup winning goal last year (I would be too) and is more worried about looking cool while chewing on his mouthguard/negating it’s entire safety function in an era of hockey where the league is trying to reduce head injuries.  Anyways, long point short, this year’s Blackhawks seem like a band that used to be really awesome, split up to do solo records, and never really recaptured the glory they once had; better together than apart.  Unless there’s some miraculous 7-game comeback, we’re going to see a new Stanley Cup champion this year.  I wonder if Dustin Byfuglien thinks now that taking less money to stay on a good team might have been a better idea now?  They sure could use him in front of Luongo.      

And since we’ve dipped into the head injury topic, my thoughts on Raffi Torres’ hit on Brent Seabrook are that the initial penalty called was correct – Seabrook did not have the puck.  I wouldn’t have been surprised if there was a suspension, but I’m not upset there wasn’t.  There were just so many intangibles to factor in to the result though; Seabrook has a concussion history (and it’s insane that he doesn’t wear a new-era memory foam concussion padded helmet), Torres has a suspension history, and the NHL gets eyeballed by the world every time a bodycheck is thrown.  Torres is a role player that is, quite frankly, doing his job: blowing guys up with bodychecks and creating puck turnovers.  The new NHL has been phasing out the fighter position for a while now, and the latest revelation seems to be the big-hitters are the next queued for extinction.  You can see it right in Raffi’s facial expression to the referee after the call was made; while some would read it as a “I didn’t do anything ref!” look, I saw it as a guy who legitimately is unclear as to what he is and isn’t allowed to do anymore in terms of body checking anymore. 

I really think that’s a huge notion to consider, especially in the playoffs.  The quest for a championship requires such a level of focus and perfection that for a player to be second guessing his limitations on the ice will most certainly at some point be the difference of a player that would normally get hammered by Torres instead get around him, make him look ridiculous, and probably earn Raffi a spot on the pine, or worse, on the healthy scratch list next game.

It reminds me of one of my first games playing in France.  Prior to playing there, I had largely defined my style of hockey as quite physical, because that’s what had brought me the most success at every other level.  In fact, I had that style drilled into me since the age we were allowed to run into each other in minor hockey.  We were playing a game on the road, and I went to finish my check on a guy into the boards who had just released the puck in enough of a time frame that I felt I was in the right to complete the hit, which I did; a pretty routine play back in North America.  Whistles, a stoppage in play, and an escort to the penalty box later, I assumed I had done something wrong (though I couldn’t confirm it because everyone was talking in French).  A teammate then joined me in the box.  I asked him what was going on.  He relayed to me that I had been assessed a 10-minute penalty for a “vicious” hit (I’ve hit guys a lot harder with worse results), and he was there to serve an extra two.  When I finally got out of the box and back into the game, I played very tentative because I couldn’t understand what I was allowed to do (the language barrier didn’t help), and I was largely ineffective from there on in. 

So that brings me to my next point – for the sake of the players, and everyone’s general understanding, the NHL needs to clearly define some rules.  No more shades of grey; whatever the ruling is, just tell us and the players, so they can go about figuring out how to play correctly, and we can all stop squabbling about it.  The North American style of hockey is largely physical, and that’s what we were all raised on.  There’s already (nearly) non-contact hockey in Europe.  That’s their style and that’s fine and dandy for them.  Over here, players run into each other and get blown up (as well as scoring goals periodically).  This monster that’s been created by the new rules is something the league needs to learn to manage better before the NHL decides to introduce touch-football rules.  Whether the game is supposed to be full of clutching, grabbing, and fighting, or speed, finesse, and concussions, please someone just let us all know so we can keep up  and eliminate all the second-guessing for the sake of the game we all love.    

 

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