SUN Hockey Pool

Cherry exact same guy on and off camera

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:55 AM ET

It's the first question most people ask when you tell them you talked to Don Cherry.

"Is he the same as he is on television?"

To the noun, verb and letter. The television hockey commentator/analyst/entertainer is entertaining, outspoken, opinionated, insightful, outrageous and easy to talk to.

"Yeah, I'm going to London, going to talk to a bunch of construction guys," he said. "Those are my kind of guys. I worked on all sort of construction until I was 36. I love those guys."

Cherry is going to talk to a bunch of construction guys but not all of them will be the hard-hat, lunch-bucket type of guys. Thursday night he'll be addressing the London Home Builders' Association at the Lamplighter Inn Best Western at their industry performer's dinner. Call 686-0343 for tickets.

It's quite a coup getting Cherry because his schedule is so hectic.

"Nah, I don't do many now," said Cherry. "I used to when I first come back from Colorado (after getting fired as coach.) I used to do this every day to survive but I don't have to do it now. I do maybe three or four or five a year."

One thing about Cherry, whether you like him or not, agree or disagree with him, he always gives you something to talk about. He covers a lot of ground in a short time firing like a machine-gun from the hip.

Do you like the new National Hockey League four months into the season?

"I do like the centre-ice stuff when there's not the hooking and holding. I like that the trap is out," said Cherry. "But we have to have a little sense in the other end. We just can't have players with clear sailing. We have to have a little battle in front of the net. That's my problem. The fans like it, though. They like the shootout and I like the shootout, I like the tag-up rule. All in all, it's good,"

Aren't referee's calling fewer penalties now than earlier in the season?

"You're right. It was loosening up until two weeks ago and then the order must have come down 'don't loosen up' and then they started all over again. They've tightened right up again," said Cherry.

What's going to happen when the playoffs begin?

"I wish I knew. It's going to be tough though," he said. "If you are going to be eliminated on that silly shooting the puck over the glass call. Say a team is trying to ice the puck killing a penalty and they shoot it over the glass. Now they are down five-on-three and the team is facing elimination. That's tough."

The highlight of the season for Cherry has been the play of Calgary defenceman Dion Phaneuf.

"That a 20-year-old kid can step in the league like that. . . I've never seen it except when Bobby (Orr) played," said Cherry. It's a (phenomena). I remember he told me in the prospects game in Kitchener 'I'm going to make the National Hockey League and I'm going to be effective.' He's a hitter and a banger and he's got a rocket shot. He's like (a player) from the 50s."

Cherry is the voice of hockey in Canada. Whatever he says garners national attention. So when he focuses on a player, it's usually good news for the player.

"I saw a kid I liked right out of the blue," said Cherry. "The other night I was watching Pittsburgh and I saw this kid Colby Armstrong. Pittsburgh's going nowhere. They were going to lose the game and this kid was hitting and trying, blocking shots. He gets nailed at centre ice and bounced right up. He's playing like it's the seventh game of the Stanley Cup. I just love it when I see guts like that."

And what would any interview be without a bit of the Don Cherry schtick. This one involves Washington Capitals sensational rookie Alexander Ovechkin.

"Ovechkin? He's good if he only learns to use the right stick. He's been caught twice with an illegal stick. Oh, Ovechkin. I thought you meant (Ilya) Kovalchuk (Atlanta Thrashers). Ovechkin. Kovalchuk. Cutyourfingeroff. I can't say anything bad about (Ovechkin), boy. He's an exciting player to watch and he's not afraid. Man, he's got unbelievable moves and he's come along at the right time with the hockey the way it is. How do you defend against it?

"I'd like to say he's a Russian and all that but he hits and the whole deal."

What you see is what you get . . . just like Cherry.


Videos

Photos