Off the Crossbar: Cherry Secretly Working with Hurricanes Marketing

After an exhaustive and lengthy investigation, sources have confirmed that Don Cherry, co-host of the popular “Coach’s Corner” segment on Hockey Night in Canada, has been secretly working for the Carolina Hurricanes in a promotions/marketing role. Given Cherry’s love affair for tough guys, parties close to the source wish to remain anonymous in order to preserve their personal safety.

Don Cherry
Hockey commentator Don Cherry (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese)

Apparently, the 85-year-old curmudgeon joined the Hurricanes Marketing and Community Outreach Department in January. The Kingston, Ontario native’s first stunt took place in February when he publicly called out the Hurricanes’ management and players after their center ice post-game celebration. Aside from it being shameful and embarrassing, making a complete mockery of the game, for the handful of fans who participated, it blurred the lines of what constitutes fun and actual entertainment.

Cherry’s “Bunch of Jerks”

The verbose and antiquated Cherry took a break from his typical chatter about the need for more brawlers and enforcers, and went on a nonsensical, vociferous rant about the Hurricane players. He spewed an aphasic outburst in which only a few words came out to represent each of his partially formed ideas. He complained they were a “bunch of jerks” for their elaborate choreographed celebrations after home wins and that it was not “the right way” to enjoy the game of hockey.

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Fast forward to roughly 4:30 mark for Cherry’s rant.

Cherry found the antics to befit Junior B clown-school antics. They were “nonsense” and had “no place in the NHL.” He shook his hands in the air and yelled at a cloud. He told the kids to get off his lawn. And he warned them “they better not continue their shenanigans in the playoffs – should they even get there.” The oft-described hockey dinosaur, whose clothing is the only thing louder than his bombast, then stopped short of saying what he’d actually do.

“After the show, they put me on the Twitter computer thing and made a mime outta me,” said the white-haired former Bruins coach, who denied he has any ties to the Canes. It was later discovered the man stuck in the 19th century meant to say “meme.”

Jerks Find a Way to Celebrate

The Hurricane players’ after-home-ice celebrations started with a simple version of Iceland’s Viking clap. This entails players clapping their hands above their head and crying out “Huh!” to the beat of a drum. As the season went on, the tomfoolery has grown in complexity and creativity, ranging from human bowling pins to duck, duck goose games, the limbo, and human dominoes to March Madness slam dunks.

The gimmicks were an attempt to galvanize a latent fan base that’s been flailing for a decade. It’s working; the fans who pack the arena are fully engaged.

Don Cherry, Ron MacLean, Hockey Night in Canada, Hockey Broadcasting
Don Cherry and Ron MacLean have been a staple in hockey broadcasting for decades. (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

When asked for a comment about his out-of-touch, old-school, and incoherent babbling Coach’s Corner sidekick, Ron MacLean quickly waved off the question and walked away muttering to himself about needing a colossal raise for putting up with the windbag for so many years.

The Carolina Who?

For the past half dozen years, Cherry’s outdated, irrelevant shtick has only been exceeded by the Hurricanes existence. The former Hartford Whaler franchise has been one of the least exciting teams since winning their first Stanley Cup in 2006. It is a desperate, but brilliant, counterintuitive marketing move to hire Cherry as an instigator.

It’s possible, if not likely, that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman played matchmaker, bringing together the blowhard commentator and one of the south’s sagging franchises. Then again, rumors have leaked that Bettman has photos of Grapes in compromising pictures with a John Wensink bobblehead.

Cherry Doubles Down

Last week during the Coach’s Corner segment, Cherry doubled down on his critique while wearing a Stormtrooper printed jacket. This time, instead of continuing to call out the players and front office as jerks, Canada’s version of Archie Bunker jabbed at the fans inside PNC Arena.

“These people that are there now, now that they’re winning, front-running fans as far as I’m concerned,” Cherry yapped away before shuffling in his britches and reaching from a bowl of prunes and milk.

“I don’t understand this. I said this out in Canada and it goes down in there. And you know, it’s a funny thing. They know that it’s the wrong thing to do, or they’d do it in the playoffs. You do a guy, you do it in October, you don’t see him until March. They know in the playoffs, you should—look at that there, that’s pretty good (Re: the “Jerks” image in the stands). You shouldn’t have…you know, I don’t understand, guys…well, I’m told, the owner said, ‘Entertain the crowd.’ And they still draw 13-14,000 people. And these people that are here now, front-running fans as far as I’m concerned, front-running fans as far as I’m concerned.” –Don Cherry

His incoherent series of non-sequiturs and orphan phrases made as much sense as his handkerchief-tie-jacket ensemble.

Marketing Jerks

The Canes haven’t just turned Cherry’s catchphrase into a rallying cry, they’ve marketed the living snot out of it. They quickly printed a batch of “Bunch of Jerks” t-shirts and have people throwing money hand over fist to get one. The team’s merchandise store can’t keep them in stock for the growing Storm Surge fans. It’s been years since the state has had fans excited about anything but Duke and North Carolina basketball.

At one point, Cherry’s entire rambling outburst was going to be printed on the back. But, in an effort to have them made up quickly for sale, the printer decided it just wasn’t worth it. “It was hard to follow, let alone transcribe and punctuate what came out of his mouth,” said a screenprinter in Reseach Triangle Park. “It could’ve taken weeks. Or months.”

The shirts and merchandise have been shipped around the world, proving that it’s possible to sell anything to anyone at any time.

The Canes in-arena game staff even dressed one side of the stands with “bunch of jerks” towels before a game to spell out the word “JERKS” ahead of Game 3 in their series with the New York Islanders.

Cherry’s Wardrobe

Cherry is well known for his outlandish, elaborate and misguided fashion sense and his finger tapping antics. His jackets are often fabrics with colorful vomit prints, fireworks and rejected carpet patterns from Vegas casinos. They give a second life to overstuffed couches from the 1850s. They’re loud, ugly and capable of making Liberace roll over in his grave.

It’s telling that a man who’s still learning the proper way to dress himself is preaching to the hockey world about the proper way to celebrate after a win.

What’s Cherry’s Next Move?

Having dispatched the Washington Capitals and the New York Islanders, the Canes now face the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Final. The more enticing battle, at least on the outside looking in, appears to be the eccentric, pugilist-loving Cherry and the Hurricanes and their growing legions of fans.

It’s unknown what Cherry’s next move will be. After finishing his latest segment off camera, he continued to ramble. “All you kids out there had better be ready for this poppycock to stop. Back in the day, Semenko and the tough guys would take of that kind of stuff. They’d send you in the right direction. They know the code. You know the code. And if ya don’t, a knuckle sandwich is heading in your direction.”

*Relax. It’s satire.

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