CM . . . . Volume XV Number 13. . . .February 20, 2009.
Don Cherry’s Hockey Stories and Stuff.
Don Cherry as told to Al Strachan.
Toronto, ON: Doubleday Canada, 2008.
231 pp., hardcover, $29.95.
Cherry, Don, 1934-
National Hockey League-Anecdotes.
Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up.
Review by Thomas F. Chambers.
Bobby Orr was killin’ a penalty and somehow or other, he lost his glove at center ice. Now, you remember how Bobby used to go behind the net and they’d chase him and he’d come out in front of the net? So nobody ever really went at him—and I’ve got another story about that one.
But he’s still killing the penalty with one glove. He’s got the puck at center ice and he skates backwards, and as he skates backwards, he leans down and puts the glove on. He skates behind his net, killin’ the penalty.
All of a sudden he roars up the right side, ninety miles an hour, as they say, goes around the defenceman, shoots it on the goaltender.
The goaltender goes to catch it, but it goes up in the air out of his glove. Bobby, as he goes behind the net, takes it and smacks it into the far corner.
Don Cherry needs no introduction to Canadians because of his regular appearance on CBC’s Coach’s Corner during NHL games. Even non-hockey fans will know about him because of the publicity he creates with his unusual suits, strange way of speaking, and controversial attitudes. His stories are not stories in the usual sense but snippets, sometimes only a few lines long, retelling events from his career in hockey as a player, coach and broadcaster. These snippets support, and add to, Canada’s vast quantity of hockey lore. Included are many facts for which fans may not be aware. Former Leaf, Mats Sundin, for example, according to Cherry, earns $6,100.00 a minute. Hockey fans of all ages will enjoy them.
As well, Cherry’s stories, or to use his term, “stuff”, often have no beginning or ending, just a middle. They are written the way he talks on television. His unusual use of language, both spoken and written, is mentioned in a quote by CBC executive, Ralph Melanby, who said, “I have to admit, Canada is a land of two official languages and Cherry speaks neither.” His language can not be classified, but Cherry is a good communicator because everyone who hears him understands what he means. His strange way of speaking and bizarre behaviour have made him very popular with hockey fans.
The stories vary in their interest level. Many from the minor leagues lack the glamour and excitement of those from the NHL. One of the most interesting of the latter concerns the so-called “No-hit Rule” surrounding Wayne Gretsky. Cherry claims that, if any player bothered Gretsky, he would be punished. In a game in Toronto, Gretsky was knocked out by Billy McCreary Jr. McCreary never played in the NHL again because, if he had, his coaches knew he would likely have received terrible punishment when he next played against Gretsky’s team.
Veteran sports reporter Al Strachan assisted in the preparation of the book, but, if he is to be believed, he did very little. He claims that “my job on this book was an easy one. Don told the stories. I transcribed them, collated them and checked a few facts.” Strachan certainly did not edit Cherry’s English. His grammar, as his fans will expect, is very poor. This is a major problem with using the book in a classroom, even for recreational reading. Younger readers may try to emulate Cherry’s style.
Don Cherry’s Hockey Stories and Stuff is illustrated with both black and white and colour photographs. They are in three groups and are “decorative” in nature. There is an index but no table of contents. For fans of Cherry, there is a page of his “Career Highlights.” The book is only suitable for recreational reading.
Thomas F. Chambers, a retired college teacher lives in North Bay, ON.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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