Clothes call

O, BY THE WAY

Hockey analyst has flair for dramatic

On Don Cherry

May 09, 2008|By BILL ORDINE

Cherry will begin his ESPN gig tonight on SportsCenter after the first game of the Eastern Conference finals between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Pittsburgh Penguins. He'll do post-game analysis during the conference finals, and contribute both pre-game and post-game during the Stanley Cup Finals.

Cherry, whose nickname is Grapes, is simply not to be missed, if only for his sartorial shock value, which is so brilliant at times that Cherry has to wear sunglasses. I think it's to protect his retinas from his own reflection off the glass around the rink.

Plus, you just never know what Cherry is going to say, although sometimes the full weight of his controversial comments may be lost on those unfamiliar with hockey culture and sensitive issues North of the Border.

For instance, Cherry caused an uproar a few years ago when he suggested that players who wore helmet visors were mostly "Europeans and French guys." Now, this may not resonate much with nonhockey folks, but Cherry was implying that European and French-Canadian players were more cavalier about player safety because they were prone to getting their sticks up and the visors were protection from like conduct.

The furor had Cherry in trouble with broadcast and government officials in Canada who took offense to his slap at French-Canadians. A subsequent survey showed that he was partially correct, at least as to whom was more likely to wear visors, but the study also showed that Europeans and French-Canadians proportionately committed fewer high-sticking penalties.

The former coach of the Boston Bruins and the old NHL Colorado Rockies is hockey's version of John Madden but with more edge and a lot less political correctness. Cherry is an advocate of what he calls "rock 'em, sock 'em" hockey featuring the "odd tussle," and here's a sample of a Cherry riff from a game telecast last year:

"The fans love the fights, the players love the fights, the people go nuts on the fights ... but I'm told the reason they cut it down is because they wanted U.S.A. people to watch it. Family! Can you believe that? That is the dumbest thing I've ever heard in my life. U.S.! NASCAR -- where there's crashing. Football -- kill the quarterback! Ultimate fighting! Who's kidding who?"

Of course, you may be so mesmerized by the sports coat, you might never hear a word.

bill.ordine@baltsun.com

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