Saturday, March 13, 2004


The Nation waited as though we were in St. Peter’s square, the window then opened and Pope Donald appeared. What would he say about the pressing matter of our time, would we find comfort in his words, a call to action or one of forgiveness. The multitudes turned up their Television’s and awaited the word.

No doubt the flunky at the CBC in charge of the “button” on the Donald S. Cheery watch was feeling the pressure, when should he push the button, what would it take tonight to send silence to the media celebrity, a move that would send shockwaves through the CBC.

Don Cherry waded into the Bertuzzi discussion tonight in a rambling dissertation on violence in hockey, Todd Bertuzzi, the NHL and the media circus that surrounded this event. He did express the belief that Bertuzzi had done wrong, and knew he would be suspended for as long as he has been. But partly, Cherry assessed blame on the situation to Avalanche coach Tony Granato, claiming that Granato should have had enforcer Peter Worrell on the ice at the same time as Steve Moore, so as to run interference and intercept any aggressive actions one assumes. Cherry also suggested that lawsuits will fly over the incident and the hefty 250,000 dollar fined levied on the Canucks over it.

He went on to criticize the media reaction to the entire situation, especially those in the media that doubt the sincerity of Bertuzzi’s apology broadcast on Wednesday night. Cherry said there was no way they were “crocodile tears” and that he knows that Bertuzzi would change places with “that kid” tonight if he could.

Cherry described himself as the “leader” of the great unwashed, (as he described how he believes the elites portray his audience). Taking from a page of the Brian Burke book of situation handling, Cherry attracted attention on the incident towards him and away from Bertuzzi.

He probably tested the patience of the button holder at the CBC, when he delved into the reaction outside of hockey. Claiming some guy named Emile had a vendetta against him, adding that they have the language people after me, now the safety people. The Emile that Cherry referred to, was Emile Therien, president of the Canadian Safety Council. Once Cherry started his commentary about him, you could just sense the guy or gal on the button getting fidgety. Therien has in the past complained to the CBC about Cherry, claiming that Cherry is a willing participant in condoning violence and fighting in hockey. Therien also is the father of an NHL player Chris Therien, who plays for the Philadelphia Flyers, a squad not known for it’s peaceful approach to the game.

Pope Donald ended his address tonight with a plea to the children:

"Look, kids, you should never, ever, do anything like this," said the Hockey Night in Canada commentator. "Todd was wrong - he knows he was wrong.

"If you have a beef with somebody, and you want to do something, it's face to face. Face to face - you settle it that way. You don't sucker-punch, ever, from behind. Do it face to face. That's the Canadian way.”

I’m not sure how the Canadian minor hockey association is going to feel having Don suggesting that any “beefs” be settled face to face on the ice. It might be at loggerheads with their Fair play ideals of the last few years. But it was probably as mellow as Cherry would ever get.. Not quite turn the other cheek, but certainly not vengeance is mine!

And with that the smoke billowed from the chimney, the window closed. The address was over, fodder for more discussion for the next week. The faithful flock to return next Saturday, for more of the word.

In an interesting bit of counter programming, the crew at Hockey Night in Canada changed the format of their Satellite Hot Stove feature in the second period. Rather than a wide ranging discussion with three guests on the issues of the day, the entire feature was turned over to one guest. Toronto Maple Leaf president Ken Dryden. Dryden has chaired a committee on violence in hockey and written a number of books on hockey and education, his purpose tonight to provide the counter point to the Cherry argument.

He provided a calm, well thought out essay on the state of the game today, claiming that the game is plagued with violence and intimidation. While not as emotional as Cherry was, he provided some powerful imagery in his message, Comparing the attack by Bertuzzi as if it were from a National Geographic television special, with a larger more powerful animal, stalking a smaller one and then attacking. Hard hitting words and an image completely opposite of the theories offered up by Mr. Cherry.

One assumes the CBC censor, was allowed to take a coffee break during Dryden’s message, no chance of any slander charges in that five minute block. It was some fascinating coverage on the issue, hopefully giving all those truly interested in the game some assistance, as they try to decide just what it is they want this game to be.

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