Celebrating Don Cherry in a Different Light
That's right, folks. Don Cherry, also known as "Grapes", turns 80 years old today and if hockey fans are lucky enough, he will be around to celebrate many more because without Cherry, hockey certainly is not as much fun.
Everyone knows Don as the controversial host of Hockey Night in Canada's Coach's Corner. He's loud, he's opinionated and more often than not, he ends up insulting someone whether it is a team, player, coach, general manager, country, etc.
With all of that said, however, I will always remember Cherry in a different kind of way. It is in this way that I believe Cherry shows the kind of great man that he is really is.
Back in August of 1996, when I was 13 years old, I was lucky enough to spend time with Team Canada before and after their World Cup Game against Team USA at the then new Corestate Center in Philadelphia. At the time, my dad, Phil Hoffman, was Mark Messier's lawyer so Messier invited my dad and I to come to Philadelphia not only so my dad could work with Messier on something, but so we could also go to the game.
While the game was great, that is not what I will remember most about that night. No, I will remember it as the night I met the great Don Cherry.
Prior to meeting Don, I was always a huge fan of his hockey videos, Rock'em Sock'em Hockey, and had every video he had made up to that point. It felt like I watched them all the time as I began to understand what being passionate about hockey really meant through watching Don.
Anyways, after the game ended, I was down in the dressing room area when I saw Don talking to Rick Tocchet. I was in awe and was thinking to myself that once he is done talking with Tocchet, I would go over and introduce myself.
After a few minutes of waiting, I went over to Don when Tocchet left and introduced myself. I told him that I had all of his videos and that he was someone that I really looked up to in the game of hockey.
Once I told him this, Don asked me for my address. I thought that was a strange question to ask a 13-year-old but I did not hesitate considering that this was one of my hockey idols.
We then said our goodbyes and I figured that that would be the last time I would see or hear from him. Boy was I ever wrong.
A few weeks later, I received a signed postcard with not only Don's autograph, but also the autograph of his dog Blue. I could not believe it that Don, not only one of the biggest people in the sport, but also in all of Canada, took the time to do this for a youngster that he probably would never see again.
This is how I will always remember Don. I will remember him as a true ambassador of the game of hockey and as someone who knows how to treat people who love the game as much as he does.