Outspoken, outrageous and at times outlandish - Don Cherry has been called
many things during his 24 years with CBC's Hockey Night in Canada, but he's
never been accused of being at a loss for words.
While he's best known for being the flamboyant yin to Ron MacLean's yang on the
popular Coach's Corner segment, Cherry's long road to fame began more than 50
A high school dropout from Kingston, Ontario, Cherry laced up with the
American Hockey League's Hershey Bears in 1954 to begin what would be nearly
a two-decade playing career. The 20-year-old rookie would jump to a number of
minor league teams in the United States and Canada over the course of his 16
years on the ice, bringing his young family with him on more than 50 moves.
Despite his journeyman career, Cherry only played one game in the big leagues;
a fill-in game for the Boston Bruins against the Montreal Canadiens during the
1955 playoffs. Tiring of the hockey life, Cherry retired in 1970. After
working two years in construction and selling cars, he returned to play with
the Rochester Americans in 1971. Not long after, he was hired on as a
replacement for the club's coach, who had been fired mid-season.
Finding his stride, Cherry spent three years behind the bench before being
promoted to head coach of the Boston Bruins in 1974. The Bruins finished first
in their division four seasons in a row and Cherry was voted coach of the
year in 1976, before being fired in 1979. He would go on to coach the Colorado
Rockies for one unsuccessful season, before a fortuitous on-air appearance
changed his life forever.
In 1980 a chance appearance on Hockey Night In Canada, across from host Dave
Hodge, impressed CBC officials enough for them to create a platform for the
bombastic ex-player and coach. The new segment, dubbed Coach's Corner,
would go on to court both controversy and high ratings, as hockey fans rushed
to their televisions to take in his singular mix of game analysis, cultural
commentary and playful parrying with host Ron MacLean.
Cherry has parlayed his broadcast success into a line of popular videos, a
chain of restaurants, a syndicated radio show and lucrative endorsements. In
addition to these ventures he has spent the past year raising funds for Rose
Cherry's Home for Kids, a hospice for terminally ill children. Named after his
beloved wife, who died of cancer in June 1997, Don Cherry has passionately
campaigned for the Milton, Ontario hospice both on and off the air.
Controversial and contentious, whatever some may think of Don Cherry he has
earned himself an indelible place as a Canadian icon.