Don Cherry stood up for some of his usual targets on Monday night.
The hockey commentator defended Sidney Crosby, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and league disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan during his Coach’s Corner segment on CBC’s “Hockey Night in Canada.”
Crosby had been criticized by members of the media for his role in a fight-filled 8-4 loss by his Pittsburgh Penguins to the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday.
“(Crosby) could’ve bailed in that game,” said Cherry. “(Pittsburgh was down) 7-4, they weren’t going anywhere.
“He even double shifted to get out there and I gotta tell you something, I admire him more for doing that than anything.”
Cherry then went on to say that he felt the Penguins’ captain was justified in his physical play with Flyers star Scott Hartnell, noting that the Philadelphia forward had been pulling Crosby around by his stick.
Ron MacLean, the co-host of Coach’s Corner, pointed out that Cherry had criticized Crosby in the past.
Most recently, Cherry called out Crosby on the April 7th edition of the show. In that episode, Cherry said Crosby made trouble for himself on and off the ice and that if he wanted to be the best like NHL Hall of Famers Wayne Gretzky and Bobby Orr, he had to stop mixing it up with his opponents.
On Monday, however, Cherry allowed that that confrontational style may benefit Crosby.
“I have to say, that’s his game,” said the former Boston Bruins coach. “He’d be smart to be like Guy Lafleur, he’d be smart to be like all those guys and everything, but that’s got to be his game and that’s the way he’s got to play.”
Cherry then moved on to criticizing members of the media who were disapproving of the spate of violence in the NHL this past weekend.
“The fans love it, who pay the money. (…) The players don’t seem to mind it, the coaches don’t seem to mind it, the players like it,” said Cherry. “So who is it who doesn’t like the fights and the banging around? It’s the reporters who get in free.
“This is war. This has been going on forever. This has been going on forever.”
MacLean asked if Bettman and Shanahan had set the bar too high at the start of the season when they said they would eliminate the head shot from the game.
“This regime is being blamed, y’know, ‘it’s out of control’, and the whole thing ‘this regime is bad’, ‘Gary’s bad’ and ‘Shanahan’s bad’,” replied Cherry. “This stuff has been going on in the playoffs for a long time.”
Cherry then showed two clips of bench-clearing fights from the 1980s and 70s. The first was a brawl between the Montreal Canadiens and Quebec Nordiques in the 80s and the second was of the Cherry-coached Bruins tangling with the Habs in the 70s.
“All I’m saying is, quit whining that this stuff hasn’t been going on and it’s not hockey. It’s hockey the way it’s played,” said Cherry as the second video wound down. “If you don’t like it, take up tennis.
“I can see these guys playing tennis, these reporters, playing tennis ‘oh, sweet-love’, in their little white shorts.”
Cherry wrapped up the segment by saying that American broadcaster NBC is having record ratings for these playoffs.