Don Cherry has long ruled the roost in Hockey Night in Canada's Coach's Corner, taking no prisoners with his straight-shooting style. When it comes to Brian Kilrea, though, Cherry softens up, showing an obvious affection and admiration for the iconic 67's coach. We asked Cherry to talk about "Killer" so here, in his words, we get some insight into Brian Kilrea.
I'm good friends with Brian Kilrea now, but it didn't start out too good.
I'd been with (coach) Eddie Shore (in Springfield of the AHL) for a year and he kicked me around all the time.
We were all sitting in a bar. (Brian) was at one end and I'm at the other. I hear him from the other end say: "Mr. Shore is the greatest guy in the world."
I say to him: "If you say that one more time, I'm going to hit you."
Eddie Shore was the Darth Vader of hockey. He treated everybody mean, except Brian, I guess because Brian skated the way Eddie wanted him to skate.
But I'll tell you a story.
One time, Brian broke his jaw playing and Eddie wanted him to play again. So Eddie told him to get dressed (at practice) and get back out and play.
(Shore) had guys running at him to see if Brian could play.
Another time, Brian broke his ribs. (Shore) put him in a whirlpool that was so hot Brian almost fainted and he almost drowned. (Shore) figured it would make Brian better.
When Brian was going to take the (assistant coaching) job with the New York Islanders (in 1984), I told him not to go.
I told him the players would love him and Bill Torrey (the Islanders GM) would not like that.
At Christmas, the players came to Brian's house and sang Christmas carols on his lawn.
The players liked him. That's why the Islanders let him go. He wanted to be liked and the players liked him.
Some guys are meant to be assistant coaches and others are meant to be head coaches.
Brian is a head coach. It worked out for the best (when the Islanders let him go). Brian didn't get into that jungle.
I've never seen a guy who can coach like him.
He was helping with the Top Prospects game a few years back and Daniel Briere wouldn't come off the ice.
Brian looks over and says: "Bench that SOB."
I said: "This is a prospects game, I can't do that."
Brian is fair and honest, but he's extremely tough.
Here's another story about Brian.
A (67's) player was complaining to him about the billet and wanted to move to another place.
Brian told him to come back at 2:30 and he would make sure (the kid) was moved.
The player came back and Brian said: "You're moved ... you're moved to Owen Sound."
He doesn't look it behind the bench, but Brian's bubbly. I've never seen him down, no matter how tough the situation is.
His dad's saying to him was: "Things will always work out."
If you're Brian's friend, you're his friend for life. And he's as honest as the day is long.
Him and (wife) Judy are basic people.
Brian is a good Canadian, the way Canadians used to be -- in the same category as Danny Gallivan.