Cherry’s Defense of Fighting: Hey, Guess What, Some People Disagree! (Updated with video)

Don Cherry’s been fairly milquetoast by his standards most of this season, but the death of amateur hockey player Don Sanderson brought out some interesting comments from Grapes on Saturday’s “Coach’s Corner”, his usual first intermission segment during CBC’s “Hockey Night in Canada”.  I searched night and day for a YouTube, but William Houston of The Globe and Mail will give you a basic gist of what he said: 


Last week, Cherry attended the funeral of Sanderson, the 21-year-old senior player in Ontario with the Whitby Dunlops who died of a head injury after his head struck the ice in a fight.

Cherry said he talked to Sanderson’s father, Mike, who told him that he had encouraged the player with whom Sanderson had fought to continue playing. And Cherry said the father also gave the player advice: “If somebody is looking for trouble, don’t hesitate.”

Cherry described Sanderson’s father as a hockey guy, because he coaches. The media, on the other hand, “just don’t understand.”


You had to figure this statement was going to annoy someone.  Ladies and gentlemen, enter New York Post columnist Larry Brooks.  Read his comments on what Cherry said after the jump.

Shame on Don Cherry, who referred to and embraced “the culture of hockey” at Sanderson’s funeral in Port Perry, Ont., while talking about how the deceased’s father “knows [fighting] is a part of the game,” as if the Whitby defenseman had died on the battlefield for some greater cause rather than on the ice for no reason whatsoever.

Bench-clearing brawls were once part of the culture of hockey. So were wood sticks, bareheaded players and barefaced goaltenders. But time moves on. Time leaves people like Cherry behind.

Some harsh words.  But if you read the entire article, you see where Brooks clearly understands.  But he isn’t done with Cherry:

Should we wait until it happens in an NHL game and every responsible media outlet in the U.S. – who knows about Canada, where they actually still glorify the jingoistic and faux-macho Cherry? – calls for the abolition of fighting while videos of the lethal blow(s) are shown 24/7 on every television news outlet?

Brooks, a columnist known for hyperbole, is not exaggerating one bit here.  You all remember what happened with Todd Bertuzzi a few years back.  We were even more the lepers of the sports world then, us hockey fans.  An entire league of players’ ethics were called into question because of one stupid act.  Brooks is absolutely right here.  We’re not for getting rid of fighting, but his point is 100% correct.

Moving on in the Coach’s Corner week, Cherry also had an interesting seemingly self-debate over what was “honourable” and not so much during the whole discussion.  Once again transcribed and reported by Houston:

He took a shot at Toronto Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson, “Einstein,” whom he quoted as saying that he sends out one of his tough guys, Andre Deveaux, not to fight, but to “bang the skilled guys.”

“That is the worst thing,” Cherry said. “You don’t do things like that. . . . That’s not honourable.”

Well Don, if there’s no one protecting the skilled guys on the other team, why not go after them?  Please, if this was a Leafs coach that Grapes supported, he would have no problem with sending out Deveaux to throw hits.  But Cherry has made his fame on making the convenient point, and never has that been more evident than this weekend.

However, when it comes down to this whole safety-in-fighting debate, Ron MacLean had the most reasoned words:

“If you’re worried about safety, you’d have to cancel a million sports,”


UPDATE 11:02 AM: Thanks to Cornelius Hardenbergh, we found of video of the comments Grapes made:


2 Responses to Cherry’s Defense of Fighting: Hey, Guess What, Some People Disagree! (Updated with video)

  1. Peter Lynn says:

    I’m not surprised that Don Cherry doesn’t endorse banging guys. Remember how uncomfortable he was that one time when the gay one from The Kids in the Hall was crawling all over him?

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