Don Cherry has his say on Coaches Corner last Saturday talking about various subjects including goalies Roberto Luongo and Miikka Kiprusoff, the Vancouver Canucks, and in particular, the Kostitsyn’s and Roman Hamrlik. http://www.cbc.ca/sports/hockey/hockeynightincanada/coachscorner/
In no particular order:
Pierre McGuire, Jarkko Ruutu, Sean Avery, Gary Bettman, Bob Cole, Denis Gauthier, NHL cheerleaders, Mike Milbury, Boston Bruins, David Frost (ex-agent and junior coach), Michael Farber, Mats Sundin, lots of hockey parents, Brian Burke, Stan Fischler, hockey in non-hockey places. And although a Habs fan, George Stroumboulopoulos gets a two-minute minor for his lousy, soft-hitting interview with Gary Bettman.
You could see it on their faces. Alex Kovalev, Chris Higgins, Sergei Kostitsyn, all not playing to their capabilities when their team needed them most, were in a different frame of mind tonight. And it was on their faces in Montreal’s 4-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. These three and their teammates came with determined looks, and they got the job done.
When Chris Higgins scored on a short-handed breakaway, he didn’t jump for joy, or smile that smile we usually see. He remained serious throughout the celebration, because the job wasn’t done yet. And that’s what we want to see. When the camera panned on Alex Kovalev, who was a threat all evening, he looked different. There was no cockiness, no comfortable pose. He was all business, it was on his face, and that’s what we want too. And Sergei Kostitsyn, with streaks of immaturity showing through all season, played with passion and looked like the young stud we knew and cheered last season.
The Canadiens played a solid game, as if they’ve had enough of the craziness and underachieving. They would have been tough to handle for any team tonight.
That was a huge win.
I can already forecast Don Cherry on Coach’s Corner next Saturday. Surely he should have something to say about Josh Gorges taking that elbow in the chops the other night, skating around not knowing his name, going to the room and coming out next period again to try and help his team when he should be laying down somewhere instead. Gorges is a good Canadian boy from Kelowna, BC, and Don, rightfully so, should give him his due. And tonight, against the Penguins, Jorges played great.
That’s toughness and heart on display.
Ryan O’Byrne also showed grit and played more like we thought he’d play this year. Maybe he’s had enough of the bullshit and has decided once and for all to do something about it.
Whatever it was with any of them, I saw a team with a new lease on life tonight.
Canadiens are off now until Friday when they visit the Sabres in Buffalo, then it’s back home for a Saturday night Habs-Leafs tilt. More of what we saw tonight will be the order of the day.
III: GOOD DON
Perhaps Don’s single most attractive quality is his intelligibility. Don is articulate, eloquent even. Don has the gift of simplicity. Forget nuance. Forget subtlety. Forget multisyllabic obfuscation (hehehe). Don is the personification of sledgehammer clarity. What a precious quality! We understand him. We can agree or disagree with him and in doing so we are obliged to challenge ourselves and therefore come to a better understanding of our opinion/beliefs/attitudes/biases which awareness can only be a good thing, a positive contribution to the well-being of all if only because, albeit in a very narrow field of reference, he obliges us to identitfy ourselves, to also become visible and therefore accountable for what we espouse – no hemming and hawing, hiding behind hypocritical hedges. (It seems to me that every country has their version of Don. For example, England has Prince Charles and America, as befits its sprawling complexity, has several but the one who comes to mind is Sir Charles Barkley.)
This isn’t to say that the issues he addresses are simple – some are (for example, details re how the game is played, what happens in a game) and some are not (for example, fighting in hockey). Nor is Don simple. On the contrary, he has a sophisticated understanding of what his role is, of what he can say, of what his boundaries are. Unlike, say, Sir Charles, Don does not skate on the very thin ice of arenas other than his own. This is astute not only in a self-preservatory sense but in the broader sense that he knows (whether intuitively or explicity, it doesn’t matter) he doesn’t have to `hold forth’ on other topics simply because hockey plays a central role in whatever Canadian culture can said to be – it is our defining metaphor and as such touches on all the things that we do and are.
Don entertains us in all ways: he bemuses us, shocks us, informs us, challenges us – he is our Court Jester, motley included. He speaks out loud and clear, says things that can be understood and employed as a useful yardstick against which to measure not only one’s personal standards but as a means by which we can locate ourselves in the larger social and cultural context in which we move. And in this time of insipid relativism and pc silencing (lol, one of the pc journalist bullys accused Don of being pc – typical of such bullies to `accuse’ others of being/doing what is in fact true of them) Don’s openness even within the confines of such a formally restricted domain as hockey is a welcome gust of fresh air.
We marvel at Don. And Don is a marvel. Nor is he just any run-of-the-mill marvel, he’s a particularly Canadian one, although, given the current vagueness as to who and what a Canadian is, it’s understandable that it’s difficult to believe that a Canadian as clearly recognizable as absolute as Don truly exists, that he’s not a figment of our collective imagination, some kind of fantastic polychromatic 3-D dramatis persona grinning down at us from above like the Cheshire Cat on Alice verging on imminent dissolution, of going poof! and disappearing from our reality, if not forever, at least during the off-season. In this sense the question, `Why Don’, can be construed to be a quintessentially Canadian one in that it serves as a window on our quest for a positive self-image, a unique collective identity which has so far been frustrated by our notorious insecurity (we’re sorry, and we’re sorry we’re sorry), by our negative self-image (we’re not British, we’re not American, we’re not (`cheese-eating surrender monkeys’ – O! Those Americans! aka) French from France) and by our pompous compensatory self-delusion that we are morally superior to everybody else because we’re multicultural (We’re not racist, we’re not ethnocentric, we’re not bigots, we’re not, well, everything bad that everybody else is.), because we’re gender-sensitive, gender-progressive, gender-committed (Long live The Matriarchy!), because we’re polite (Excuse me, Sir/Ma’am but would you please stop hitting me.) and because, for the most part, we’ve only killed other people when it’s their fault (terrorists, assorted fanatics, wild injuns, people who don’t know that we know what’s best for them). But Don is not like this. He’s got an identity. At least he appears to have one which unconscionable chutzpah raises more questions.
If Don KNOWS who he is can he be a real Canadian? Or, is he simply a more real Canadian, somebody who is the embodiment of pure undiluted Canadian-icity, a reification of a sartorially-challenged platonic form? If so, who are we? Are we real? Is our national preoccupation with Don an expression of a repressed desire to be like his naughty unCanadian self – loud/opinionated/self-confident/patriotic/assertive/brusque/Leaf fan/Bruin fan/hammy/rude? Have we created him in order to assure ourselves of our own objective existence? Is Don a weird abstraction, a kind of animated declaration of our significance – Look Ma! Don’s doin’ it again! – in spite of our lurking suspicion that the pretentious aspirations of the current crop of pc ideologues is, as is invariably so, merely the icing on the cake of their self-serving interests, that their `vision’ of a higher realization of human nature is, at best, absurd, that their recipe for realizing this vision is toxic? If so, is he a bum or a hero? If Don could retire, would we go poof!? Oh yeah, Don makes us nervous ….. well, some of us.
Only in Canada, eh?
Part Two Of Jim’s Look At Don Cherry
II: BAD DON
The poofing of Don would be impractical for all the usual reasons utopian visions inevitably fail, however in Don’s case they don’t even come into play simply because The Media doesn’t want to retire Don, WE don’t want to retire Don and even if Don wanted to retire and tried to retire he can’t. Why? What is it about Don that makes him so irresistably appealing, at least to US, such that even his `unCanadian’ traits are attractive to some fans?
First, Don’s unCanadian attributes:
1) Don is a Leaf fan – yes, the Leaf Nation really does exist, there really are Leaf fans and yes, much to OUR consternation, they do have not only the right to exist but the right to support the hockey team of their choice, even the Leafs. Of course, this phenomenon is local and, although the Greater Trawna Region is, at least for the near future, part of the Canadian polity, once an NFL team settles in it will secede to the States. Bad Don.
2) Don is a Bruin fan – ditto 1, more or less). Bad Don.
3) Don is not infrequently rude. Yes, I am a stereotypical Canadian in that I inwardly cringe when Don acts in an obnoxious manner. But, so what? Lots of people are rude, even some Canadians. Nowadays, rudeness is fashionable, very much part of being cool and (supposedly) self-confident and honest, i.e. telling it like one thinks it is and Don is definitely guilty of this, eh? Bad Don.
4) Don is a bully: he’s loud and outspoken, he picks on poor Ron, says dumb/mean things about Euros, Quebecois, non-Leaf/Bruin players and thinks most sports journalists covering hockey are dopes. LOL.. As any semi-aware fan knows, Don is the bullied – his beloved wife, Rose, ruled him, Blue bosses him around, the CBC tells him what he can/cannot say and, as for Ron, ha! The seemingly meek mild passive victim of big bad Don is far from that – he’s a very tricky enabler. Without him playing the foil, setting Don off in all his dubious glory, Don’s profile would be much lower. As for Don picking on sports journalists? Ha! Guilds don’t get bullied, they bully – consider: who first raised this empty question and why? Okay, some people simply don’t like Don. Fair enough. But, in the absence of any reasonable pretext for poofing Don, could it be that a posse of like-minded (empty-headed?) pcers have planted the question in a bid to indirectly undermine Don’s status? Could this be a tactic in their crusade to shape Canada and Canadians to their specifications? Ahhh yes, the tried and true cheap innuendo ploy with the intent here being to insinuate that Don has worn out his welcome and that the really thoughtful responsible fans sense this growing discontent with The Don Cherry schtick? Or, could it be that this is simply another media-generated bit of hoopla intended to keep things stirred up however banal the stick doing the stirring may be? Something else? Spontaneous emergence, mayhap? Whatever.
The point is, it’s not Don doing the bullying here. And how many journalists worked themselves up into a frothing-at-the-mouth frenzy over Avery’s `sloppy seconds’ stupidity and Bertuzzi’s assault on Moore? What nobility! Caring nurturing mature males stepping up and being counted. Self-righteous `protectors’ of the weak and the innocent o-so-happy to, what?, could it be to fight the good fight? Indomitable warriors for what they KNOW is right and good – oh yeah, down with the barbaric atavistic code that underlay Bertuzzi’s attack (Hmm, could it be the same one informing the journalists’ attacks?). Granted, nothing beats a good hit of that ever-so-satisfying sense of well-being that one gets from the exercise of virtue. But if you must indulge yourself in this way hold yourself accountable to the same standards you are imposing on your targets. Not doing so, or at the very least not trying to do so, constitutes hypocricy of the meanest sort. And, it seems to me that The Media are most adept at this. Consider the slandering of Don by a supposedly reputable sports journalist to the effect that Don exploited children in a cynical way merely to enhance his self-serving personal agenda. A ugly vicious assault – far worse than what Avery said, the journalistic equivalent of Bertuzzi’s mugging? – but did The Media come down on this dood? Did the defenders of virtue band together and condemn him for his nastiness? Did they hound him, decry his ethical standards? Call into question his journalist credentials? Call for his firing? Demand judicial action? Of course not. Ha! Gimme Bad Don any old day.
5) Don is arrogant and insensitive – he mocks others, says they don’t know their hockey. Again, so what? First and foremost, Don mocks himself – look at the costumes he sports! And, excluding his reprehensible albeit perfectly natural irrational support of the Leafs and the Bruins, he does know his hockey better than most of us. Sorta Bad Don.
6) Don presents himself as an unabashed patriot – knock-down proof that he is unCanadian. He has and continues to bellow over and over again that Canadian hockey and Canadian players are the best in the world, that all others are pretenders. What unmitigated gall! Presenting himself as an advocate of something that all right-thinking Canadians, aka pcers and ideological visionaries, know to be inimical not only to our national well-being but to that of the world at large. Patriotism is the lackey of Petty Nationalism which all right-thinking Canadians know to be the main cause of human conflict and it must therefore be thwarted whenever it rears its ugly maw. We are NOT Yugoslavians! We are NOT Ruwandans! We are … ? which we can’t be as long as Don is around. Bad Bad Baaaad Don.
7) Don’s most egregious failing to the anti-Donians might well be that he comes across as a Show-off meaning that not only does he want and invite attention he actually succeeds at getting it! Horrors! How very, very unCanadian. We don’t beat our own drum. We’re modest. Why, who does he think he is? Lots of us know hockey as well or better than him. He needs a good slice of humble pie! We’ll make him eat crow. We’ll teach him not to be so `uppity’. We’ll get him retired! Yeah, right. Same old story, eh? The truly arrogant `self-annointed’ defenders of virtue hiding behind the guise of humility. Good Bad Don.
8) Don is a reprehensible examplar of all those reactionary western-rationalist patriarchical elitist racist ethnocentric values and virtues that the new improved Canada needs to suppress if the future is to be OURS. Don is loyal, steadfast, dependable, direct, compassionate, honourable, he believes in free speech and civic liberties, etc etc. Bad Good Don.So, what about Good Don? Tomorrow.
You may have read Jim before. He’s had it up to here with shootouts. He comments regularly on the state of the game and how it could be fixed. And beginning now, in three installments, he sets his sights on possibly the only person more opinionated than himself, Don Cherry.
I: POOFING DON
Should Don retire? Two ways to reply to this question are: first, respond directly to it as if it raised a legitimate topic for discussion; second, examine it’s provenance, question the question, as it were – why has the question even been posed and who posed it? My position here is clear and unequivocal – of the two, the second approach is the best one because it is the one that impels us to think about Don in an effort to understand the truly interesting question, `Why Don?’.
Should Don retire? From what? He can’t retire from himself. He can’t retire from hockey. He can’t retire from being a public personality because, after all, it’s The Media, in all its magisterial might, and not Don who decides what is newsworthy and what is not. Whether or not Don is deemed so a la Paris Hilton or otherwise is, perhaps, moot, however the indubitable fact is that The Media has ordained that Don is NEWS and it is from this fount that all things Donian flow including this question. Thus, the question is bogus, the appropriate question might be, `Should The Media retire Don?’ If the answer is yes, then I suppose they could start by retiring Coach’s Corner and go from there, stop flashing his mugg at us, passing on his opinions, talking about him – censure any mention of him whatsoever in all the mainstream media, in effect, make him go poof! Unfortunately (for the anti-Donians), the dood is incorrigible, he simply won’t keep still and, like the Cheshire Cat in Wonderland, he’ll undoubtedly pop out of the infosphere somewhere/when else. The internet. The local arena. Bobby Orr’s birthday bash. Blue II’s funeral.
And does The Media really want to retire Don? After all, it is plugged into him as much as he into it, eh? As well, The Media insistantly reminds us that it would never ever censure The News! It merely reports it, the facts – that Don is, well, out there is not a fact of their making – and nothing else, that it doesn’t `spin’ possible meanings, that it doesn’t design page-layouts, pick n’ choose and order items in order to favour one interpretation, one position, one set of beliefs over another – after all, it’s not in the propaganda biz, is it? Nevertheless, culpable as The Media is in the creation of Don, it would be remiss to lay the entire blame for him at its doorstep.
Don is not merely a two-dimensional construct of The Media, he is also very much a creation of us, the Canadian Hockey Fan.. Perhaps the ultimate responsibility for retiring Don lies with US. Should WE retire Don? Should WE take undertake a determined pro-active initiative to make Don go poof! WE could do it. WE could band together, kick things off with a country-wide burning of Don – in symbolic effigy form, of course. Make Don’s retirement into a national holiday akin to Guy Fawkes day in England with speeches and beer, fireworks galore and balloons and candy apples and everything else that goes into such an event. I’m sure The Media would luv to help US out. The ratings would be astronomical and the advertising revenue awesome. Imagine, Don would go up in flames on practically every block in Canada as WE unite in our unanimous desire to exorcise Don from OUR collective as-yet-to-be-determined sense of self.
And Don would be more than happy to lend a hand. He could deliver a nationally televised rant on European hockey players, fisticuffs, the instigator rule, no-touch icing, etc etc, after which he could diss Ron, tell him for the umpteenth time that he doesn’t know what he is talking about whereupon Ron, his mug graced with a beatific smile, would, after a good bad pun appropriate to the occasion, set a torch to a giant effigy of Don on Parliament hill then a select posse of sports writers could lead US in consigning his Rock `Em Sock `Em stuff and whatever else they deemed was tainted with the imprint of un-Canadian Donism to the cleansing flames.
Religous /feminists/environmentalists/activists-at-large could denounce Don as a dinosaur, a relic of a by-gone era, and as such an intolerable obstacle on OUR journey to national self-realization and therefore guilty of creating his own reality – it’s clearly his fault that WE are forced to make him go poof.
The politicos could chip in, too. The next morning the Prime Minister could give a speech in which he announces that effective immediately it would be a criminal offence punishable by a fine of no less than $19.37 plus GST and 78 minutes in the corner of the Kindergarten class nearest to the offender to even say Don let alone name your baby after him. In fact, not only the name Don but the very word could be erased from OUR lexicon. No more Don! No more don! And Cherry/cherry, too. Kiss `em goodbye! In less than 24 hours Don would be officially gone – after all, WE Canadians are respectable law-abiding citizens, eh? No longer would he be in OUR collective face and on the tip of OUR tongue and, unlike the Cheshire Cat, his poofing would be terminal leaving US Don-free to continue OUR quest to find ourselves, to create a new vibrant identity that captures and expresses OUR Commitment To Diversity, to being everybody and nobody – a challenge that only a progressive post-post-modern Canada can meet – and become living proof that `It Is All Relative’ as WE lead the way in the forging of a Brave New World, a peaceful haphaphappy world from which all those bestial atavistic urges and surges inherent in Donism have been eradicated
An alluring vision, eh? Alas, like all utopian dreams, it is impractical. Why? I’ll tell you tomorrow.