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Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Hockey and the War.

Yet another strange intersection. For those of you unwashed heathens unfamiliar with the NHL, there is a Saturday evening tradition amongst Our Neighbors To The North™ called Hockey Night in Canada. HNIC is the Canadian national campfire, (sorta) uniting the country around the national pastime. Three games are broadcast, depending upon region: in Quebec, the faithful watch the storied Habs, in Ontario, the Maritimes and other parts slightly west, the viewers are subjected to the also-storied but hapless Maple Laffs (1967!), and heading out to the Pacific region, the folks get the even more hapless Canucks (who are actually a very good team this year).

But all viewers are united in watching a regular feature of HNIC: Coach's Corner. CC features the flamboyant and outspoken former Boston Bruins coach, Don Cherry. He of the three-inch starched collars, Cherry weighs in on multiple subjects around the game, playing off accomplished straight man and would-be voice of reason, Ron MacLean.

To call Don un-PC would be an understatement. He is a vocal proponent of fighting in the game, arguing somewhat persuasively that it keeps the dirty players honest. He also lambastes the presence of European players in the game, arguing that, by and large, they aren't tough enough to play the North American game. This has changed somewhat of late, and Cherry has admitted that he admires some of the gritter players from Europe. He has even smacked American players around, but this is largely done for nose-pulling humor, as it's pretty clear he thinks the Yanks play the game right (having learned it from Canadians and not, say, the Finns) and play almost as well as the Canadian lads do.

Nothwithstanding his occasional razzing of Americans (it peaks, not coincidentally, around the Winter Olympics and the Canada Cup), he genuinely likes America and Americans. It was pretty obvious that it was good-natured razzing, especially considering that his late wife Rose was American, and he spent his best run coaching here in the States.

Moreover, he even likes our foreign policy, and expressed his anger about Canadians booing the Star-Spangled Banner and failing to support their friends to the south on last week's Coach's Corner:

The popular Coach's Corner segment began with Cherry commenting on Montreal Canadiens fans booing the American national anthem last Thursday before a game against the New York Islanders.

Cherry, wearing one of his signature flamboyant ties -- a sparkly one in the colours of the American flag -- did not initially want to get on the topic of war, but after MacLean told him that: "everybody wants to know what you think," Cherry reluctantly complied.

Cherry began his near-seven-minute tirade by apologizing to the U.S. on behalf of Canadians, saying that "years of pride went down the drain" with the Montreal fans' behaviour on Thursday.

The Coach's Corner tandem did not agree on the war in Iraq.

Cherry berated MacLean about being neutral on the subject, then slammed the Canadian government for its "lack of support to our American friends."

"I hate to see them go it alone. We have a country that comes to our rescue, and we're just riding their coattails," Cherry said.

Listen to the whole thing here (March 22 broadcast). What is interesting is that CBC does not say that the majority of the communications they received about the segment were negative. Given that the Ceeb had perfect motive and opportunity to do so, I think the omission is telling. Even the ombudsman said there were only a "handful" of complaints. Perhaps there's more support for the U.S. up north than we're hearing about.

The only question I have is this: Where can I get that necktie?

[Link via Damian Penny and Relapsed Catholic.]

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