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Don Cherry Interview: He's Nothing Like You'd Expect

by Annette Bourdeau, posted Nov 30th 2011 2:01PM
Canadians just can't get enough of Don Cherry. Whether you love him or hate him, everyone has something to say about the country's most opinionated sportscaster. But judging by the number of people who tuned into Part One of the CBC miniseries 'Keep Your Head Up, Kid: The Don Cherry Story,' there's a lot more love than hate for the iconic Mr. Cherry.

Fans of Cherry -- and his adorable dog Blue -- are in for a treat next spring, when CBC airs Part Two of his life story, 'The Wrath of Grapes,' which focuses on his storied tenure co-hosting 'Coach's Corner.' Like many things in Cherry's life, the miniseries was a family affair. His son Tim wrote it, and his daughter Cindy helped out with the costumes for the character of her mother Rose, played by Sarah Manninen. (Jared Keeso reprises his role as Cherry.)

We caught up with the surprisingly soft-spoken Cherry last week to chat about what it was like watching his life story on the small screen -- and man, he is nothing like we thought he'd be!

Did you enjoy Part One?
It was really good. I think that Jared was fantastic. In fact, it was the only time an actor could skate better than the guy he was playing! He had me down perfect. My trainer that I had in Rochester when I coached said, 'That was you in the dressing room -- I couldn't tell the difference.' And Sarah, who played Rose, she was so good, she even phoned the Italian club down in Hershey, PA, because my wife had a Pennsylvania accent. The funny thing is she got her cousin that worked there.

She got Rose's cousin when she called?
Yeah! What are the odds on that one? A million to one. So she got the accent down perfect, and she looked like Rose. It was uncanny. And my daughter Cindy also got the clothes that Rose would wear. It was very emotional watching Part One. I'm told that the second one is just as emotional.



Earlier on in your career, did you ever think that being outspoken would actually help your career later on?
Well, it sure didn't help me when I was playing! I spoke a lot to the coach, and it got me fired from a few jobs. And I still don't think I'm outspoken, but whatever I do people seem to like it, anyhow. No, I never ever thought I'd be on television when I was playing hockey because I'd never done anything like that before.

That's interesting that you don't think of yourself as outspoken.
I don't. Y'know, I think as quiet as I'm talking here, I'm the same on television. People know with television, they can tell if you're phony or not. There's something about the lens, you can't kid people.

You've been no stranger to controversy over the years. Do you think at times the media has blown things out of proportion?
Let's face it: most of the media is left-wing. I'm the perfect right-wing guy. Everything that I do makes headlines. I remember once there was a headline with my name in it, and I read the story and I wasn't even in it. Not one line! So if my name is in headlines it'll sell papers.

Does it affect you?
Bad write-ups don't bother me at all. I'm used to them!



Did anything ever upset you, particularly when you were first starting out?
When I first started, it was tough. I remember a guy named Trent Frayne really did a number on me after I'd been on television about a couple of months. That was my first bad write-up. I look forward to bad writes-ups now! [Laughs] Because you gain a tough hide. You get used to it. Nothing more could be said about anyone than what's been said about me.

Have you ever given advice to [Toronto Mayor] Rob Ford about how to handle the negative press?
Yeah, I said the people that like you will always like you, and the people that dislike you will always dislike you. So try to please the people that like you.

Is there anything about you that would surprise people?
I don't think so. I think most people know me. There was a lot of surprises to me in the first one.

Surprises like what?
I didn't know I talked that tough. [Laughs]

Do you have any favourite scenes from the miniseries?
Well, I think all the scenes with Blue. Tim tells me they've got a Blue this time that's fantastic. I always have fun when I see the dogs. Everybody loves Blue.

How many Blues have you had now?
Three.

Obviously you're very influential in the hockey world. What's your biggest piece of advice you hope the NHL takes to heart?
Well I've been saying this for awhile now, but there's been so many injuries with touch-icing. Somehow or other they just won't take it out. We've had more injuries with touch-icing than I think with anything. That's one thing I wish they would implement.

Fighting is part of the game, though, right?
Oh yeah, fighting is part of the game. Always has been. There's more people that have been hurt with touch-icing than there have with fighting.

One last question for you: What's your favourite TV show?
'Judge Judy'!

Really? Why?
I just love 'Judge Judy.' I like History and I like 'Greatest Tank Battles,' but if you're asking me who I tune in to see all the time, it's Judge Judy.

'The Wrath of Grapes:Keep Your Head Up, Kid Part 2' airs on CBC on March 25, 2012, at 8PM ET.

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