Best before date on Grapes had been coming for some time

It was the mainstay sound track to many-a-Christmas around my house.

The pounding rock and techno beat interspersed with tips on how to play a 2-on-1 rush, the greatness of Bobby Orr and the wisdom of putting cotton batting in your shin pads to protect your knees. Bone crushing hits, nice goals, bloopers and, of course, “tea time” where two pugilists would circle around one another before trying to vanquish their opponent in a bare-knuckle battle where it was assured to us viewers by hockey’s great patriarch that “Don’t worry, neither guy was hurt.”

Post-mortem chronic traumatic encephalopathy exams be damned, apparently.

Rock’em-Sock’em hockey videos were just one way for myself and all hockey loving youngsters of the 80’s and 90’s to get our Don Cherry fix and I was a large consumer of the hockey wisdom (and other views on life) being distrubuted by the 1976 Jack Adams Coach-of-the-Year winner for longer than I care to admit.

I’ve owned virtually every hockey highlight video the man has produced, every book the Kingstonian has penned (or been featured in) and even enjoyed the more recent dramatization of his life in the Keep your head up Kid! CBC mini series. I ate at his restaurants. Such a devout follower of Cherry, I recall standing in line at an OHL game in Belleville to get an autograph during a game between the Bulls and his Ice Dogs. I’ll save you the math, I was 23 years old at the time.

I can safely say I’ve carried a big torch for Cherry from an early age even after it became uncomfortable to do so which was about the time Cherry derided the grudge some indigenous peoples carry with them towards this country, believing they may not get a fair shake out of a system which systematically traumatized them for centuries.

“Go out, work hard and get your own fair shake!” was the paraphrased quote.

My undying love and support probably should have eroded sooner but how could I walk away from someone that had been such an important part of my life and my love of the great frozen game? I might not have been able to recall how badly the Maple Leafs had lost on Saturday night when recalling the game with my school yard chums Monday morning but we were all set to recount what Ron McLean and Don Cherry got up to during Coaches Corner during the first intermission. It was akin ot turning your back on your hockey expert grandad even though some things he was saying these days-mostly on non-hockey related items- made you feel uncomfortable.

On Monday, Remembrance Day of all days, Cherry was fired from his Saturday night pulpit after he chastised immigrants over his perceived lack of thier participation in the poppy campaign commemorating those who have served and died for Canada.

Columnists from coast to coast dove deep into Cherry’s comments on Sunday and Monday and dissected them with incredible detail so I won’t pore over the exact terms that were used on Saturday night’s Hockey Night in Canada broadcast.

But the one aspect that troubles me as much as what Cherry said was that his words were becoming weaponized by those who already look down upon new Canadians with scorn for trying to accomplish what their ancestors that built this country did just a century and a half ago- build something new in a foreign land so their children and grandchildren will have a better life and a greater opportunity.

The #DonCherryisright hashtag was trending on social media in Canada even before news of his termination and it was typical tripe parroting Cherry’s view that people in the city not wearing a poppy must a) be immigrants and b) ungrateful for the sacrifices of Canadian war dead.

This is dangerous thinking and essentially runs counter to the concept Canadians laid down their lives so we may express our freedom and stand outside the group think if we wish.

Not wearing a poppy or not participating in Remembrance Day is part of the free will earned by the valor exuded by Canadian soldiers.

We certainly don’t agree with the choice of ignoring Remembrance Day but we also don’t agree with mandating or shaming people into the act of remembrance either. What worth would it hold then?

By chastising one segment of the population for not wearing a poppy-especially when there are plenty who choose not to- is the final straw on the haystack under which Coaches Corner is now buried. A sad day for those who still unflinchingly support Grapes but an overdue reckoning nonetheless.

-Jason Parks