Donald Stewart "Grapes" Cherry, (born February 5, 1934) is a Canadian hockey commentator for CBC Television. Cherry co-hosts the "Coach's Corner" intermission segment (with Ron MacLean) on the long running Canadian sports program Hockey Night in Canada, and in addition recently joined ESPN in the United States as a commentator during the latter stages of the Stanley Cup playoffs. He is known for his outspoken manner, flamboyant dress, and staunch patriotism.
Prior to his broadcast career, Cherry was a National Hockey League player and coach. He played one game with the Boston Bruins, and later coached them during the days of Bobby Orr. He is also well-known as an author, syndicated radio commentator for The Fan Radio Network, creator of the Rock'em Sock'em Hockey video series, and celebrity endorser. Cherry was voted as the seventh greatest Canadian on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's television special, The Greatest Canadian.
As a youth, Cherry played tenor drum in a civilian pipe and drum band in Ontario. He played junior hockey with the Barrie Flyers and the Windsor Spitfires in the Ontario Hockey Association. Cherry won the Memorial Cup as a defenceman with Barrie in 1953. In 1954 he dropped out of high school and signed with the AHL's Hershey Bears.
Cherry had a long playing career in professional hockey, spent mostly in the American Hockey League, but he also had stops in several other minor leagues and played one game for the NHL's Boston Bruins in 1955, when he was called up during the playoffs. According to Cherry, a baseball injury suffered in the off season kept him from making the NHL. He retired from hockey in 1970. Cherry's younger brother, Dick Cherry was also a hockey player.
Cherry quickly developed a reputation for being an eccentric, flamboyant coach who strongly encouraged physical play among his players. It has been alleged he modeled the Bruins' playing style after that of his dog, Blue, a feisty bull terrier. This approach worked as the Bruins, known as the "lunch-pail gang", were one of the NHL's best teams during the latter half of the 1970s, capturing the division title three times from 1977-79. The Bruins were able to defeat the rough Philadelphia Flyers twice in the playoffs under Cherry's tenure. The Bruins made the Stanley Cup finals twice, both times losing to their arch-rivals, the Montreal Canadiens, in both 1977 and 1978. Cherry won the Jack Adams Award as NHL coach of the year in 1976. In the 1977-78 season, Don Cherry coached the Bruins team to an NHL record of 11 players with 20 goals on a single team.
Cherry, who had an uneasy relationship with Bruins General Manager Harry Sinden, was fired by the Bruins after a critical coaching mistake during a 1979 semi-final playoff series against the Canadiens. Up by a goal with less than two minutes left in the seventh game, the Bruins were penalized for having too many men on the ice. The Canadiens' Guy Lafleur scored the tying goal on the subsequent power play and ultimately won the game in overtime. Montreal went on to defeat the New York Rangers for their fourth straight Cup title.
Cherry went on to coach the Colorado Rockies the following season. Under his tenure, the Rockies adopted the motto "Come to the fights and watch a Rockies game break out!" This could be seen on billboards all over Denver in the 1979-80 season. Cherry's hiring as head coach immediately rejuvenated the ailing franchise's fortunes.
However, as he later admitted, his outspokenness and feuding with Rockies general manager Ray Miron did not endear Cherry to management. While Cherry did much to motivate the players, goaltending was still the team's weakness as Miron refused to replace Hardy Astrom, whom Cherry dubbed the "The Swedish Sieve". Cherry recalled one game where his players had got ten shots on goal without scoring, but Astrom then conceded a goal from the opponent's first shot and so was yanked from net. Of course, Cherry didn't help things when, after watching a player ignore him and refuse to come off during a game, he reached over the boards and manhandled the offending player. His NHL career and the Rockies ended on a positive note when they defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-0 in the final game of the season held at home. Years later, while commentating during the 2001 Stanley Cup final between the Colorado Avalanche and New Jersey Devils, Cherry recalled the experience of the Rockies' last game where he was wearing cowboy boots and after it ended, the Rockies players formed two lines so he could depart the ice between them while acknowledging the cheers of the crowd.
Cherry was the part-owner and the former coach of the Ontario Hockey League's Mississauga IceDogs. The IceDogs' first three seasons were difficult ones with the team winning a total of 16 games. Cherry took over coaching duties in the fourth season. During Cherry's one season as head coach of the Mississauga IceDogs, the team managed 11 victories (only a slight improvement) and failed to make the playoffs for the fourth straight year.
Cherry's commentary is usually peppered with catch phrases like "All you kids out there...," unrestrained affection for his favourite players (including Steve Yzerman, and "Dougie," Kingston native Doug Gilmour, whom Cherry kissed on-air in a famous TV gag), and overall political incorrectness. Another trademark is his bull terrier Blue, originally a gift from the Bruins players. Some of the advice he gives is unchanging from year to year.
"Grapes" tends to have favourites among his many tidbits of advice. During the late nineties, virtually every week he would spend time exhorting the evils of placing one's stick in the line of fire (it inevitably caused deflections, and sometimes goals). Two other perennial favourites are the folly of touch icing (a rule he blamed for the premature end to Pat Peake's career) and (several years ago) bemoaning the extremely sensitive rules about crease violation. He also despises the two-minute penalty for firing the puck into the crowd from the defensive zone.
He also spends time extolling true grit, such as when, in the 2000 playoff campaign, after sustaining a bone-shattering slapshot from Al MacInnis, a Phoenix winger crawled off the ice so that another could take his place. Usually at the end of the NHL season, his send off words in recent years have been about NHL prospects entering the NHL draft. His position is that unless a player is guaranteed to be selected in the first or second rounds, they should not physically attend the draft. The reason for this is that some players would be too disappointed if they are drafted later than expected, or worse, not at all.
Cherry returned to the news in May 2004 amid rumours that CBC would terminate his contract for Hockey Night in Canada. However, he re-signed with the network in July.
Branching out from his Hockey Night in Canada duties, Cherry began to release a series of videos called Don Cherry's Rock'em Sock'em Hockey in 1989. The 15th anniversary video was released in 2003, with a 'Best Of' released in 2005. Cherry returned to the "Coach's Corner" for the 2005-2006 NHL season - without the seven-second delay. For the 2007 Stanley Cup finals, NBC decided to feature Don Cherry in its intermission coverage, a rare appearance on American television. He was partnered with Bill Clement and Brett Hull and it did not conflict with his usual role on CBC as he appeared on NBC during the second intermission.
In May 2008, ESPN announced that Cherry was joining Barry Melrose as a commentator for the remainder of the 2008 NHL Playoffs. He provided pre-game analysis for the conference finals, pre- and post-game analysis for the Stanley Cup finals, and appeared on ESPNews and ESPN Radio. ESPN also announced that he would donate his fees to the Humane Society.
In 2003 Cherry made controversial comments on his CBC segment in support of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Cherry appeared on the American radio program The Jim Rome Show the following week, stating, "You have to realize the CBC is government owned [...] You have to say the government was against [the invasion of Iraq] and I'm for it and I'm on a government program. I really thought this could be the end.
After appearing in the Canadian House of Commons on November 7, 2006, he formally stated his support for the Prime Minister, whom he called "a grinder and a mucker" by saying "I give a thumbs up to Stephen Harper for sure. He supports the troops and I support the troops.
In 2008, he also appeared on an episode of "Holmes On Homes", the widely-popular home improvement show. While not appearing scripted, Cherry apparently lived in the neighbourhood and he is shown speaking with Mike Holmes about the construction business and the ongoing project at a neighbour's house.
Don Cherry has lent his considerable persona to selected charitable causes, most significantly, organ donation awareness.
In 1997, Cherry's wife, Rose (whose name motivated Cherry to always wear a rose on his lapel) died of cancer. Cherry contributed in developing Rose Cherry's Home for Kids which has since been renamed to The Darling Home for Kids. in Milton, Ontario. The Hershey Centre in Mississauga, Ontario is located on "Rose Cherry Place," a street named for his late wife. Don Cherry also formerly owned the arena's main tenants, the Mississauga IceDogs.
Cherry is good friends with long-serving Mississauga mayor Hazel McCallion. During her 87th birthday, he joked that that while 98% of the city voted for her, he was looking for the remaining 2% that didn't.
Don Cherry in recent years has become one of the biggest public personalities to endorse Cold FX cold medication. In the first year Don Cherry worked for the company, $1 from every bottle sold of COLD-FX was donated to Rose Cherry's Home for Kids.
He has also done television and radio advertisements for the sandwich store chain Quizno's, in which he appeared with sportscaster Jody Vance, where he frequently utters the slogans "You get more meat, " "Toasted tastes better" and "You're gonna love it".
On November 14, 2005, Don Cherry was granted honorary membership of the Police Association of Ontario. Once an aspiring police officer, Cherry has been a longtime supporter of the police services. In his own words, "This is the best thing I've ever had."
In June 2007, Cherry was made a Dominion Command Honorary Life Member of the Royal Canadian Legion in recognition of "his longstanding and unswerving support of ... Canadians in uniform". He joins an elite group of just 40 people so honoured, including William Lyon Mackenzie King, John Diefenbaker, Lester B. Pearson and Vincent Massey.
In February 2008, Cherry was awarded the Canadian Forces Medallion for Distinguished Service for 'unwavering support to men and women of the Canadian Forces, honouring fallen soldiers on his CBC broadcast during 'Coach's Corner' a segment of Hockey Night in Canada'.
The CBC show "Who Do You Think You Are?", about Canadian celebrities who are digging for clues to their family histories, features Don Cherry. Cherry searched for information about his grandfather at sites in Kingston including the Royal Military College of Canada, and the Marine Museum.