Grapes backs players' right to fight for cash

Don Cherry's softer side is on display with his daughter Cindy yesterday at Rose Cherry's Home for...

Don Cherry's softer side is on display with his daughter Cindy yesterday at Rose Cherry's Home for Kids. (Ernest Doroszuk, Toronto Sun)

Ian Robertson -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:02 AM ET

Well-paid National Hockey League players have a right to defend their big salaries, veteran coach and CBC commentator Don Cherry said yesterday. But unless the contract-stalled players and owners rekindle their frozen season, angry bosses will hit wages even harder, the CBC Coaches Corner star told reporters in Milton.

If a current labour dispute kills the season, "owners will lose money and pay the players back," he said at the opening of Rose Cherry Home for Kids. The $3.5- million hospice for terminal and seriously ill children is named after his late wife.

SYMPATHY FOR PLAYERS

Cherry predicted NHL fans could be left with empty ice "for a year and a half" if games don't resume by January. The silver-haired fashion idol known as "Grapes" said he sympathized with players, who owners have asked to accept wage cuts.

"If you're getting $1.8 million, you'd be fighting and clawing to keep it," Cherry said. Some players earn $6 million.

Cherry is one of 50 CBC employees benched by the network since NHL commissioner Gary Bettman imposed a lockout of the 700 players when their union contract expired Sept. 15.

The CBC says movies will run in the timeslot originally scheduled for Hockey Night in Canada, starting Oct. 16.

A LOT WILL BE HURTING

"There are a lot of people who will be hurting," Cherry said. His wife, who died of cancer in 1997, "would be choked up" by the lockout, he added.


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