Everyone is busy and readers who drop by on occasion may miss some posts they might otherwise have checked out. Just in case, here are some that you might be interested in:
A column on the coaching/language question in Montreal- from my perspective as someone with a French (though not from Quebec) background
Dion Phaneuf and the captain’s legacy in Toronto
The Leafs and Getzlaf or Bobby Ryan
When a trade sends your favorite Leaf away
It came and went in a flash. In fact, I’m guessing because the CBC was rushing to give Don his few final seconds of air time for the night—before throwing to the Calgary-Kings HNIC nightcap—that the audience was much smaller than it is for, say, “Coach’s Corner”.
But what was said was intended, very direct, and for some, likely hit the nail on the head.
Here is what happened (and someone please correct me if I have the sequence wrong): It was Armed Forces Night at the ACC, a terrific initiative on the part of the Leafs and Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment. During the Leaf-Ranger contest, and after his customary appearance on “Coach’s Corner”, Don Cherry (with permission, obviously) stopped the game in the third period, I think it was, and led a cheer from the stands for the armed forces on hand, while also thanking the Leafs for hosting the evening. Fans in the building gave another nice cheer (as they had earlier in the evening), and players on each team stood and acknowledged the military men and women on hand by tapping their sticks on the boards.
It was a nice moment, for sure.
Now, fast forward to the moment I referred to above. Don is making his final “comment” of the evening. He again salutes the Leafs for doing a great job hosting the armed forces and celebrating their (the troops, not MLSE) remarkable efforts on behalf of all Canadians. He then closes by verbally tipping his hat to Maple Leaf assistant coach Rob Zettler, as Don put it, “a good Canadian boy” who applauded during Cherry’s live announcement, along with the fans and the players from both teams.
Don then went on to add, very quickly but quite intentionally, that (and I am not quoting directly- someone may have the footage on tape and can provide the accurate statement) the other Leaf coaches “couldn’t have cared less” about the announcement and didn’t even bother to applaud to acknowledge the troops.
We all know about Don’s outward and very public support of Canadian troops over the years, and for all those policeman and firefighters who are out there there to serve and protect the rest of us in the line of duty. He has also at various times poked at Ron Wilson (as I have in this space over the years, and I believe fairly so) for what Don, at least in the past, perceived as a somewhat arrogant attitude on Wilson’s part. (He occasionally disagrees with Wilson’s coaching tactics and personnel decisions, too, but that’s a debate for another day…)
But here’s my question: do you agree with Cherry? Do you believe the Leaf coaches who did not applaud (if they in fact did not, I can’t verify…I wasn’t on hand and I don't know for certain) were in effect slighting the troops? Was it disrespectful, even if it was un-intentional?
Here’s the thing. You have to believe Wilson and his staff, at that point in a still close game (I think the Leafs were down 2-0 to the Rangers at that point) were focused first and foremost (and only, frankly) on how they could get the guys going to get back in the game. As a coach, you have tons of stuff on your mind in the middle of a close game.
But that all said, was Cherry on to something?
He made a point of mentioning Zettler’s Canadian nationality, didn’t he? We all know the Leafs are pretty top-heavy, organizationally and in terms of their coaching staff, with Americans. I don’t know if this troubles Cherry, or any of you. I don’t particularly care, to be honest, though I will say this: I’m not sure if I would be one hundred per cent thrilled if the entire playing roster was made up of Americans or Europeans.
There is no question that, for example, Borje Salming and Inge Hammarstrom were pioneers and triggered, at least in Toronto, a wave of future Europeans who graced the blue and white uniform and only enhanced the organization’s great hockey heritage. And some fine American players have worn the blue and white colors proudly as well (Ed Olczyk, among others, jumps to mind…heck, Ron Wilson himself played for the Leafs in 1979 or thereabouts). And that’s how it should be, a wonderful mix of the best players available—from everywhere.
I’d just like to ensure that there is also room in Toronto for some Canadian players as well, I suppose. That’s just how I feel. Not to the exclusion of opportunities for others, just as part of the Leaf tradition in Canada.
But I am digressing somewhat. The real question today is, how do you feel about Cherry’s comment at the end of the Leaf game on Saturday night? Was he right on? Was he off-base? Did you agree with him or not? Was it unfair of him to expect the coaches to stop what they were doing and applaud the troops?
I look forward to hearing your thoughts.