What's this? Don Cherry is biased toward Canadian hockey?
Shocker, I know.
As an American, I do not have the luxury of turning on the TV and witnessing Cherry's weekly ramblings on "Coach's Corner." However, I stumbled upon the most recent episode that aired on Saturday .
Four minutes in, Cherry directs the discussion toward the recent World Junior Championship game that saw Canada surrender their five-year domination to the United States for the second time in tournament history.
It was a proud moment for the few Americans who knew what was going on in Saskatoon. Many sportswriters began to write that perhaps all of the hard work put in to promoting hockey in the U.S. is beginning to show.
Cherry, of course, had something to say about the excited American journalists: "Canada did their best and [Americans] sang in the dressing room 'we went to a foreign land and kicked their ass ' and stuff like that...all I heard about 'American development', 'American development is so good'..."
His tone was anything but positive when speaking of the U.S. development programs, implying that they don't compare to the Canadian programs.
He then went on to list current Canadian NHLers who could have played in the WJC, inferring that Canadians are moving to the big boys at a faster rate than Americans and hurting the respective junior teams they leave behind. Cherry then closed with the statement that Americans leave the U.S. to learn hockey in Canada because Canada is the best at the sport.
As an American who loves hockey, I have many issues with Cherry's biased stab at the U.S. and its programs.
First, concerning the dressing room chant, let the American kids enjoy their win. They weren't chanting that to the Canadian bench, they were in their dressing room and celebrating as a team. I am sure Canadians have celebrated their wins in enthusiastic ways so give the Americans a chance to enjoy the taste of a well-deserved victory.
Going to the meat of the argument, why is it bad that American success in hockey is generating some excitement in those who follow the sport? And what does America's success have anything to do with Canada being better at the sport?
Cherry sounded like that kid in the lunchroom who would look at your favorite PB&J sandwich and flaunt his homemade lasagna. Listing off the names of could-have-played Canadians also made him sound like a sore loser.
It seems like Cherry assumed that this excitement was generated from people believing that the American programs are equal to or better than the Canadian programs because of the 2010 WJC. Of course, we all know this isn't true and I would shoot down any article that would state something so asinine. However, I have yet to see an article that makes this claim.
While Cherry accurately points out that many Americans go to Canada to hone their hockey skills, he fails to point out that Canadians also come to America for the same reason.
Shattuck St. Mary's in Fairbault, Minnesota was the home of many Canadian NHL stars including Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews. Many newly-drafted NHLers also opt to continue their hockey development at top tier American universities such as Boston College, Boston University and No. 1 ranked Miami University at Ohio.
But hang on, since when did hockey development start in the junior/college level? Before we can even start talking about college or junior hockey, I wonder how Cherry thinks Americans first get involved in hockey.
Certainly not in Canadian programs.
I'll be honest, I've never played a second of competitive hockey in my life. The extent of my experience ends at my driveway. However, that was where the love of the game began for me; having fun with my brother and our friends in our driveway as we pretended we were Charlie Conway and the rest of the Mighty Ducks.
An interest in hockey has to start and grow somewhere before kids are old enough to play junior or college hockey. This all-too-important interest is what leads kids to join recreational leagues and continue their improvement in the game until they are old enough to see where their hockey skills lead them, maybe a junior Canadian team or an American university.
The important thing is that Americans are able to stay in the U.S. and feed their hockey hunger here before thoughts of junior or college hockey enter their minds. This is why the growth of U.S. hockey programs is crucial since most parents wouldn't even think about sending their kids to another country when they're 3-13 years old.
As a Penguins fan, I know about "Sidney Crosby's Little Penguins Learn to Play Hockey" that allows kids ages 4-7 to learn to skate and play hockey at virtually no cost thanks to generous donations from Crosby, Reebok and Dick's Sporting Goods Store. Alex Ovechkin has a similar program called Ovi's Crazy 8's.
It's great to see what NHLers like Crosby and Ovechkin are doing to promote the game in the U.S., so why does Cherry have to make it a point to talk about how much better the Canadian programs are?
I would have hoped that he, along with the rest of the hockey world, would be proud that the U.S. is trying to generate interest in hockey and we are finally seeing some progress through the success of junior Team USA. This is a team of boys that may have spent their mid to later teenage years on Canadian junior teams, but spent their younger years playing hockey in their neighborhoods and recreational leagues, just like me.
None of the players on Team USA would be wearing gold if it weren't for those U.S. programs that developed their interests before juniors were even in their sights.
I just wish Cherry would acknowledge the hard work put into those programs instead of bellowing "Only Canada can be good at hockey!" even when they lose fair and square.
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