Wed Feb 02 04:03pm EST
The venerable Don Cherry participated in a media conference call Wednesday ahead of Hockey Day in Canada, the annual event on CBC that this year will be centered in balmy Whitehorse, Yukon. He was asked about CBC's own NHL players' poll, conducted in conjunction with the NHLPA, that found Ron Wilson of the Toronto Maple Leafs as the "coach you'd least like to play for," with 24 percent of the vote.
And Cherry, who has blasted Wilson for the better part of the last three years ... stood up for the guy?
"I was very disappointed in the thing," Cherry said Wednesday on a conference call. "Coaching is hard enough without getting polls like that, that's the way I (think)."
The thing about that CBC/NHLPA poll is that it surveyed 318 players. Some of them played for (or play for) Wilson; most of them know someone that has. Reputations are built through peer-to-peer interaction, stories passed through locker rooms, first impressions cemented as fact. True or not, that's the rap on Ronnie.
But reputations are also built through the media, so it's a bit of a head-spinner to hear Cherry's disappointment about "polls" when he spent the better part of Wilson's first two years in Toronto framing his reputation as that of a terrible players' coach.
For example, here's a December 2008 bit from the San Jose Mercury News:
"The colorful Don Cherry, from his perch on the 'Hockey Night In Canada' broadcasts, has been lobbing potshots at Wilson, calling him 'pompous and arrogant,' a 'typical American' and even 'Little Napoleon.' He has also accused him of being a coach who takes credit for the victories but blames the players for the losses. 'The underachieving team of all time was San Jose,' Cherry said recently. ‘When he tried that bully stuff on (Patrick) Marleau, shove it. (Jonathan) Cheechoo, shove it. Look at what they're doing this year.'"
Here's a January 2009 bit from Fan 590 in Toronto, via Toronto Sports Media Watch:
(In a voice trying to imitate Wilson) "Oh, well look at me, what a great job I am doing with this garbage, almost a .500 team.....have you ever heard a guy talking about his players the way he does? Richie said he was surprised about him doing it in the media- pretty soon these guys are going to say well you've convinced us. Been in this game 50 years, never seen this before. I am a players coach, when I am asked about him, I have no problem answering that I have no use for a guy who runs his players down to show how good a coach he is, and I think it's garbage... I don't care whether they like it or not."
My, how could anyone get the impression that Ron Wilson isn't someone for whom they'd want to play?
"I wasn't too happy about Kessel sitting there and I don't think anybody was," said Cherry. "I think (NHL vice-president) Brendan Shanahan(notes) tried something new and when you try something new there's a few wrinkles you get out of it. I think the kids enjoyed picking — the way it went back and forth and the banter — and it just showed how great our kids are. Our athletes, we're the best of all.
"Every one of them, (they're) good guys and (went) along with things. The skills was pretty good too."
Should the NHL let MacLean and Cherry pick teams in Ottawa next season, or would that freeze out U.S. fans?