Don Cherry Was Wrong This Time

Don Cherry is a legend. As many of our readers know, I have been quick to defend him in the past when people would go crazy over every little thing. We’re too politically correct in this day and age and if people can’t put up with hurt feelings because of someone’s opinion then we have gone entirely too soft in North America. However, I’m not here to defend Grapes today.

In the past I have been hesitant to mention the on-again off-again obsession with Don Cherry’s often controversial comments. However, Cherry was wrong this time. Cherry was wrong on more than one key point on the night on the March 3rd edition of Coach’s Corner. During Cherry’s tirade, he attacked Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke and the Leafs organization for well, having too many Americans.

Don Cherry’s Comments March 3, 2012

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The comments about the amount of American players on the team were a bit ludicrous. Many writers pointed out the hypocrisy of Cherry since he previously criticized the Montreal Canadiens organization for only hiring Francophone coaches. This is the exact same problem we have in North America today. People are getting hired based on reasons other than knowledge or qualifications. No one is entitled to a thing in this world. Everything is earned through hard work. Cherry is fueling the fire by insinuating that the feel good hometown stories should be drafted or signed instead of the best player available.

When drafting a player, talent needs to be evaluated and ranked. When your position comes, you draft the best available player, whether he’s Canadian, American, Russian, Czech, etc. I also know that Brian Burke doesn’t care if players are American or Canadian. Burke only wants to win.

If the Maple Leafs were picking first in the 1988 NHL Entry Draft would they have picked Darrin Shannon over Mike Modano? Using Cherry’s logic, that’s what they should have done since he was the first “Ontario Boy” to get selected that year.

Brian Burke Leafs
Brian Burke's feud with CBC commentator Don Cherry continues (John Cordes/Icon SMI)

If Cherry wanted to attack Brian Burke, he could have attacked him for the fact that the team has seen little improvement in his tenure as general manager. He could have attacked him for poor player development since he took over in 2008. He could have attacked him for blaming Ron Wilson for the Leafs demise without sharing much of the responsibility. But he didn’t. Cherry could have had a legitimate case against Burke if he had gone about it the right way. But he played the nationality card, which never works anymore. The fans have moved on from that mindset.

Another point it looks like Cherry might get more into next week is the story that broke earlier in the week regarding a group in Saskatoon (population 250,0000) being interested in bringing an NHL franchise to the city. Cherry briefly stated his belief that the NHL leaked this story. Unless I’m missing a major point here, I don’t see what the point would be for the NHL to leak this. Without getting into Saskatoon’s lack of population and corporate support, I don’t see the NHL using a town like Saskatoon as leverage against Glendale or any potential buyers there. So I’d be curious as to why Cherry thinks the NHL wanted that out there. I’ll have to wait to comment on that one.

I like Don Cherry and have met him a few times and he’s always been a very interesting man to talk to and a kind and courteous guy in person. However, he got this one wrong. Remember this in the future before you get up in arms and want to sue him or throw him off the air. Cherry is paid to do what he did. He’s paid to give his opinion and grab your attention. No one said you always have to agree. This time, most of us didn’t.

15 thoughts on “Don Cherry Was Wrong This Time”

  1. yeah you don’t really know much about saskatoon do you? Its not total population. its the amount of fans in that population. we sell out every exhibition game. i live here and the games sell out in under an hour and leave you with the option of overpriced kijiji tickets.  and we have a rink ready to go… Lets be honest, some american cities are dead and move the team. move where the wealth is. saskatoon. fasting growing in north america. Let me finish with. This is where you went wrong.

  2. Don Cherry is becoming more and more like Rush Limbaugh every day.  Think it’s time for both of them to go!

  3. Don Cherry is an idiot. An all Ontario boy who at 78 years old still doesn’t know how to pronounce Toronto.  Its Toronto Don not Toronta

  4. Good point, but I don’t agree. But no-one “KNOWS” how a player will develop after he is selected, and Grapes point is, he thinks he knows. Sure, Toronto has let a few good players slip away but every team does that. But he sure does know how to get the media going, and he’s a master at that.
    No matter whether you agree with him or not, he gets the folks talking.

  5. Did the writer do absolutely no research for this story? Burke brought up the Ontario angle first, not Cherry. Burke complained to Ron MacLean earlier in the evening that other teams play the Leafs really hard in Toronto because they have 4 or 5 Ontario born players on each team. How in the world do you not bring this up as background for this article? Without that backdrop the writer may have a point. With it, Cherry is dead on.

    Amateurish writing, to say the least

    • If you want to have an opinion great. But be professional. You’re wrong about Burke bringing up the Ontario angle first because Cherry brought up the American angle when Wilson was hired by Cliff Fletcher, NOT Brian Burke. If you’d like, I can contact you with the audio/video from that.

  6. The author is 100% correct. Cherry’s rant about Ontario born players is ludicrous, flimsy and incredibly short-sighted. When it comes to a player’s country of origin, evidence supports that playoff teams succeed when they have NORTH-AMERICAN players. Burke won a cup in Anaheim with that very formula. (Cherry won how many cups?)

    And, if you follow Burke’s draft selections then you will see that he, in fact has drafted a number of local boys,  mostly Canadian’s and some Americans. This is the only avenue where  Burke has multiple options and choices, and his record is clear. In this regard, Cherry is obviously wrong.

    When you look beyond the draft and consider what’s available via free-agency and trades, the options are MUCH more limited.  High-end physical players, with reasonable and smart contracts are not plentiful(understatement of the year). Limiting yourself even further, to Ontario-born players, is a fool’s errand. 

    Ontario has produced some of the greatest hockey players in history but, unless you draft them, how do you pry these terrific players away from their current teams? Give up your team’s future for Brampton’s Rick Nash(and his terrible contract)?  If you’re team has a great Ontario-born player then by all means hand him over for a price that makes sense to the Leafs long-term plans. Burke will jump at the chance I’m sure.

    In the salary-cap era, the draft dominates your roster selections. Look at Burke’s draft record and you will see that Cherry is wrong.

  7. Cherry is right, case closed. I said almost the same thing to a friend months ago. But what can you expect from an American GM eh?

  8. brian burke is a bully and has an attitude more than most gm’ speech to don cherry and sometimes the truth hurts…if vancouver fans had any say luongo would be history…get over it burke

  9. Agree with Daniel. I dont have strong feelings about Cherry one way or another, and I agree with the author Justin Johnson that you should sign the best players available. However that has nothing to do with Cherry’s tirade. He wasn’t saying Burke shouldn’t get the best players available, more that Burke was so focused on bringing in American players, he was missing opportunities to sign Ontarian players when they were the best available!

    In other words, if it’s just because the Americans are the best players available, why aren’t the Leafs any good? 

    So Justin I do agree with Daniel, I think you misunderstood Cherry’s point of view, and sort of exaggerated everything by bringing in the talk of no one is entitled to anything, bringing in the job market… I think that’s a stretch. 

  10. Typical mistakes in this editorial. You disagree with Cherry and you try to justify your position by giving exagerated examples.

    Cherry’s point is not that there’s too many Americans, that’s the first exageration. He’s saying that there are NO Ontarians.

    Cherry is not saying that the Leafs should ONLY pick Ontarians, that’s your second exageration. He’s saying that there should be a few.

    Just like we are asking in Montreal, to have a few.

    And Cherry is completely right, since many hockey players come from Ontario, it should be easy for the Leafs to pick Ontarians.

    Your third and final exageration was to think that talent is everything. That only talent matters. That IS completely wrong.

    We stick to our own first, others second. We support our own first, others second. You fail to recognize that.

    Somebody playing for his own will play better. Somebody with a little less talent will be play better than someone with a little more, cuz of motivation.

    Psychology 101.

    Daniel Bigras, from

    • Couldn’t agree more Daniel. The point isn’t that there are too many Americans, but rather the fact that there are zero, none, notta Ontario players.

      Cherry was absolutely right that they should have SOME Ontario born players. They are the highest profiled NHL team playing in Canada’s biggest city and most populated region.

      There is an incredible amount of hockey players coming up from Ontario systems, more so than any other place in the world. It is almost inexcusable that they do not have one player from the Province.

      Thousands upon thousands of players who grow up in Ontario would consider playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs to be the first greatest accomplishment of a hockey player’s career, yet Brian Burke continues to pass up on all of them because he is too hard-headed and only wants to TRY and win with HIS guys.

      Looks like its been working…

      • Thanks for reading. Listen, I like Grapes as I said. But this “No Canadian Boys” and “No Ontario boys” isn’t something new. This is something that Cherry has been talking about for several years now. He did it when Wilson was hired too. He criticized the Leafs for hiring an “American” coach, even though Wilson is a dual so I don’t know why he said that. I’m not a Wilson mark but he was the best coach out there at the time. Why did Cherry have a problem with hiring the best coach available? I think Cherry would have found it much easier to attack Burke’s job performance with the Leafs and the lack of results.

      • I’m going to respectfully disagree Andrew.  Sure I’d like it if there was more players from Ontario (like the entire 1962 champion team) but  I think Cherry crossed the line here.  He used his media leverage to pull out a personal vendetta on burke.  Look at the stats, no other GM has drafted more Ontario born players than Burke since his arrival in Toronto.  The fact that they haven’t made the team yet is really not his fault.  He drafted two in the first round at last year’s NHL draft.

        He also had a team stock full of Canadians when he won the cup in Anaheim.

        This argument has no legs.
        You go for the best players.

        You also have to keep in mind that Burke (or anyone else for that matter) didn’t expect his team to finish second last and thus giving up the shot at Tyler Seguin or Dougie Hamilton so that argument doesn’t hold much water either.

        And while I do think that many Ontario born players would love to play here, many others would just as much like to stay away.

  11. Well, boyo, I don’t know. Da Blues got 9 fine Ontario boys and da Cats got 10…so maybe they’re in the Finals dis year…B-E-A-U-T-Y!!!

    Seriously though, it would be smart–from a PR standpoint–to get a couple of Ontario guys on the roster notwithstanding Grapes’ obsession.

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