|Don Cherry is bracing himself for Sunday when the first part of the Keep Your Head Up, Kid: The Don Cherry Story airs. (QMI Agency/Stan Behal)
There will be a box of Kleenex at his side.
And when the story of his life airs on CBC Sunday, Don Cherry will be in his basement in front of his TV, sitting in the very chair from his days as coach of the Rochester Americans.
"The couch where Rose would sit is right next to it," Cherry, fighting tears, said Wednesday.
It has been almost 13 years since his wife, Rose, died of cancer, but for Cherry, it was like it happened yesterday. He's bracing himself for Sunday when the first part of the Keep Your Head Up, Kid: The Don Cherry Story airs. The second part airs on Monday and for Cherry it will be the first time he's seen it.
"Other than with Blue and my goldfish I am going to watch it alone," he said yesterday. "There are some scenes that are pretty personal and I don't want to be around anybody because I don't know how I am going to react."
He gave a hint of how at Wednesday's news conference on the Coach's Corner set at the CBC building. Sitting next to Kitchener-raised actress Sarah Manninen, he couldn't hide his tears.
"She nailed Rose, she was Rose," he said of Manninen's performance of the woman he met in Hershey, Pa., who died of cancer in 1997.
"I would be surprised if he gets through half of it," said son, Tim Cherry, who wrote the script and was the executive producer. "It's going to be pretty emotional for him."
Tim said he feels the same: "You couldn't tell my dad's story without telling my mom's story."
So when he and director Jeff Woolnough set out to cast them both, they were not sure what was going to happen. "Jared Keeso was perfect for playing my dad," said Tim.
But who was going to play Rose?
They held auditions and in walked Manninen, a George Brown acting school graduate who has done a lot of TV and theatre work. "She read for the part and I looked at Jeff and said 'Do we need to audition any more actresses?'" recalled Tim.
Manninen, meanwhile, thought she didn't get the part because she didn't hear anything for months. Soon after she got a call and was told she was going to Winnipeg to shoot the movie. Provided with a box of Rose's personal effects and a copy of a CBC Life and Times interview, she went to work to become Rose Cherry.
Don's daughter Cindy designed the clothes and helped with the hairstyles and Sarah, who has the same classy, understated elegance as Rose, went to work on a Pennsylvania accent.
When filming started, Don flew out to meet everybody on the set -- and was admittedly more worried about the hockey scenes looking authentic.
"I was hoping Jared could skate as good as me but it turns out he could skate better," laughed Don. "In fact, if I could skate that good I would have played more than one game in the NHL."
The film is full of great hockey scenes that are done very well -- including Don's one and only game with the Boston Bruins in Montreal in the 1955 playoffs and later in his glory days coaching Bobby Orr and the big bad Bruins.
All of that stuff was fun for Don to witness.
The personal stuff was a different matter.
"They were filming this scene of Rose sticking up for me and I had to leave the room," said Don, who admitted tears were flowing. "I couldn't take it. If you didn't know any better you would swear it was Rose. I wanted to go up and hug her because Rose was back."
Don is going to try to see his and Rose's life again Sunday and Monday but admitted it's not going to be easy as he once again wipes away his tears.
"Now you know why I want to be in my basement alone."