PREST: Should the new Don Cherry be sour or sweet?

Tough choice to be made in picking replacement for Canadian hockey icon

Looks like we need a new Don Cherry.

The man who spent a career shouting words that never quite combined themselves into a fireable offence finally strung together a statement that got him canned. In many ways it’s amazing that he made it this far. He’s 85!

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Love him or hate him, he’s not likely getting that prime pulpit back anytime soon, and so it’s time to decide who will be next to fill those colourful lapels. So what qualities did Cherry bring to the broadcast?

He was a "snappy" dresser. He was opinionated, supremely confident, and rarely, if ever, apologized for anything. He was hard to understand, particularly in later years, adding tangents upon tangents upon tangents, steadfast in his refusal to ever completely finish a sentence. He loved the troops. He had ideas about how, and by whom, hockey should be played. He grew a devoted group of followers. He used the word “pinkos.”

So how do you replace that? There are a couple of ways the Hockey Night in Canada folks could go here. They could carry on the Cherry legacy, getting a new Cherry that would hit the same notes as Don did, maintaining that loyal fan base. Or they could get the anti-Cherry, someone who would take Coach’s Corner in a whole new direction.

So let’s take a look at some folks who would best qualify in those two categories.

New Cherry: Foghorn Leghorn

Prideful? Check. Boastful? Check. From a different era? Check. Animated? Check! Wait, are we 100 per cent sure that Don Cherry wasn’t Foghorn Leghorn?

“Well, looky here, boy. I’m no loudmouthed Snook! Ah, boy, I say. Boy, I say! The Leafs have a penalty kill here. Look at me when I’m talking to ya, boy! I say they got a penalty kill. Looks to me more like road kill. That’s a joke, son. Don’t ya get it? Pay attention when I’m talking to ya, boy. Any of this gettin’ through to ya, son?” 

On second thought, he wouldn’t pass for Cherry. Too eloquent.

Anti-Cherry: Justin Trudeau

That election win in October wasn’t exactly convincing. Maybe the prime minister is looking for an exit strategy. This certainly would take Coach’s Corner in a whole new direction – judging by the reaction to Cherry’s firing, there seems to be a sizeable overlap between those who love Don Cherry and those who hate Justin Trudeau. And no one apologizes for things more than Justin Trudeau.

If they hired Trudeau for Hockey Night in Canada, they wouldn’t have to worry about him saying hurtful things about immigrants either – there’s nothing Trudeau loves more than imagining what life would be like as a minority. 

New Cherry: A Dog

Yeah, you heard me. Would a dog actually be that much worse at crafting sentences in English than Don was? And Don loves dogs! Remember Blue? They could train the dog to react just as Don did over and over throughout the years. They show a hockey fight, the dog drools all over itself. Ron MacLean interrupts the dog, the dog growls at Ron. They show a big hit followed by someone stumbling on the ice with a head injury, the dog wags its tail and barks excitedly. They show a photo of a fallen soldier, the dog mournfully howls.

Wait, this is turning into a really good idea. Someone call dog school – we’re going to need your most pompous pooch! And get some more starch in that collar!

Anti-Cherry: k.d. lang

A woman? A gay woman? A human rights advocate gay woman? A vegetarian human rights advocate gay woman? And what’s that charity she’s a part of? Artists Against Racism? We are checking a lot of anti-boxes here.

The Alberta native, however, was known for her flashy, eccentric clothing, and was immortalized in song by the great Stompin’ Tom Connors, just as the sport was in "The Hockey Song." I’d watch her on Coach’s Corner, as long as she did all of her analysis in song.

“It goes like this: a fourth, a fifth. A power play, and then a sixth. You’re blowing out the Sabres, Hallelujah.”

New Cherry: Twitter user @BigBrad3467

There were a few good options here, as many of Cherry’s most vocal supporters come from the ranks of the numbered Twitter accounts. Other strong contenders include @NoGuffGranny2354 and @ProudGary8782. Analysis would consist mostly of calling the Canucks “snowflakes,” complaining that concussed players needed “safe spaces,” and claiming all video review decisions were controlled by the Deep State. Vancouver fans actually might ponder this one for a moment or two, because one mention of the Canucks on Coach’s Corner would equal the previous number of mentions in the past 30 years combined.   

Anti-Cherry: Greta Thunberg

She’s passionate, and knows how to build a dedicated following! This could be a good way to create distance from the Cherry era, as there also seems to be a huge overlap between those who worship Don Cherry and those who look askance at this teenage girl because she says it is a bad thing that the human species is on a crash course with disaster due to climate change. Forget about the climate change thing for a moment though, even with Cherry often ripping David Suzuki as a “left-wing kook” and insinuating that the climate crisis couldn’t be real because the weather was “freezing for two months” in Toronto. You know what would really get folks riled up? Filling Coach’s Corner with a Swede.

So those are some of the more controversial contenders. Who is it actually going to be? Probably none of those. But whoever, or whatever, does end up filling that time, let’s hope it’s a segment that all Canadians can enjoy together. And would it kill them to have some fun once in a while? Right? Woof!

Andy Prest is the sports editor for the North Shore News and writes a biweekly humour/lifestyle column.

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