SUN Hockey Pool

Defensive Cherry is missing the point

Dave Langford, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:32 PM ET

The most important person in the somewhat isolated world of hockey is not NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. He is much too busy finding ways of keeping people with money away from people without money. Strange, that one.

Neither is it Bob Nicholson, in his role as president of Hockey Canada. He is a tad tied up as well, making certain he gets all the proper autographs of his heroes Gretzky, Yzerman and Messier while gift-wrapping them positions in international hockey.

And Dave Branch, as commissioner of the OHL and president of the Canadian Hockey League? Oh, never mind.

Unfortunately, the most important hockey person in the No. 1 hockey country in the world is Don Cherry and that, my friends, is not a good thing.

If you happened to miss his act on Saturday night, he went after Dr. Charles Tator, a neurosurgeon who made the mistake of telling the truth about Cherry and for that has paid a heavy price.

Tator correctly pointed out that the style or brand of hockey promoted by Cherry leads to head injuries.

“For this guy to come out and blame me for all the injuries I think is totally unfair,” Cherry said between periods on Hockey Night on Canada. He went on to add Tator was merely trying to get his name in the paper and succeeded.

Fortunately, Tator did get his name in the paper and the backlash has been mean-spirited and ruthless from Cherry who even decided to verbally attack a Toronto radio reporter this week. His crime was to do his job and ask Cherry about the Tator comments.

Tator was absolutely right. The Rock’Em, Sock’Em brand of hockey is promoted weekly from the Don Cherry hockey pulpit and the AHL veteran goes virtually unchecked by his entertainer/host Ron MacLean.

Cherry defended himself by saying he has long promoted the no-touch icing. True, but all amateur leagues already have that and have had for years. (NHL blind spot on that one, by the way.)

STOP stickers on hockey sweaters, he mentioned, as if it was his idea. Not true. Shoot for the Cure? What’s that have to do with the argument?

What is part of the argument is fighting and Cherry leads the league in promoting fighting. Nobody anywhere can argue that point. In addition to his extremely healthy HNIC stipend, he has long made, I’m guessing millions, in his video business.

Cherry insists fighting is a necessary part of the game, as if it somehow stops high sticking, spearing and any other demon-like parts of the game.

Well, I guess Mr. Cherry didn’t read the first three pages of articles in Friday’s Globe and Mail sports section which stated clearly, based on research done at Boston University, that long-time NHL tough guy Reggie Fleming suffered from “degenerative brain disease at the time of his death.”

Fleming was a player who made his living from fighting everyone else’s tough guys. He was not particularly a good fighter and likely absorbed more hits to the head than he dished out. Last I checked, hits to the head include punches.

So maybe Cherry should address that issue and stop attacking the integrity of the person who dared challenge him. That solves nothing.

But if Cherry said fighting in hockey should be curtailed, he would lose a good portion of his fraternity watching Hockey Night in Canada each Saturday night. He would lose his freelance video gig. He would lose the quiet support of the NHL.

No, fighting must stay, he insists, even though the world junior, the Olympics, the world hockey championships, your local minor and high school hockey all go without. Even the Stanley Cup finals have little fighting.

As one well-know sports columnist said to me Friday in an email:

“That’s why they’re (the NHL) fighting the headshots so hard. The logic leads right to fighting on brain injury. Once they acknowledge one, they’re done.”

And at that point, so would Don Cherry.

Sobeit.


Videos

Photos