Don Cherry is a former ice hockey player, coach, and sports commentator who has become a household name in Canada. He is known for his colorful personality, distinctive style of commentary, and strong opinions, which have earned him the nickname “Grapes.” Over the years, Cherry has become one of the most recognizable figures in Canadian sports and continues to be a topic of discussion and controversy.
Early Life and Career
Donald Stewart Cherry was born on February 5, 1934, in Kingston, Ontario. He grew up in a hockey-loving family and began playing the sport at a young age. After playing junior hockey, Cherry joined the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League (AHL) in 1954. He played for several teams over the next few years, including the Hershey Bears and the Springfield Indians.
After retiring as a player, Cherry turned to coaching. He took over as the head coach of the Rochester Americans in 1971 and later coached several teams in the NHL, including the Boston Bruins and the Colorado Rockies. During his time as a coach, Cherry gained a reputation for his distinctive style and outspoken personality, which would later become the hallmark of his broadcasting career.
In 1981, Don Cherry joined the CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada as a color commentator. He quickly became one of the most recognizable and popular personalities on Canadian television, known for his colorful suits, distinctive language, and strong opinions. Over the years, Cherry became known for his love of hockey and his ability to connect with fans in a way that few other commentators could.
The “Grapes” Nickname
Don Cherry’s distinctive style and colorful personality earned him the nickname “Grapes.” The nickname is said to have originated from the first night he appeared on Hockey Night in Canada, when fellow commentator Dave Hodge referred to him as “Don Cherry, the coach of the Bruins, and the color man, who has more colors than a box of crayons.” From that moment on, the nickname “Grapes” stuck, and Cherry became known to millions of fans across Canada.
Despite his popularity, Don Cherry has faced several controversies over the years, due to his outspoken and sometimes controversial opinions. Some of the most notable controversies include:
Remarks on European Players
In 2004, Don Cherry sparked controversy when he made comments about European hockey players during a broadcast. He claimed that European players lacked the heart and grit of Canadian players and were not as physical on the ice. The comments caused a backlash among fans and players, and Cherry faced criticism for his remarks.
Remarks on Canadian Soldiers
In 2013, Don Cherry caused controversy when he made comments about Canadian soldiers during a broadcast. He claimed that soldiers returning from Afghanistan were not being recognized or honored enough by the Canadian government. The comments sparked a heated debate on social media and led to calls for Cherry to be fired.
Remarks on Immigrants
In 2019, Don Cherry caused controversy when he made comments about immigrants during a broadcast. He claimed that new immigrants were not doing enough to support veterans and were not wearing poppies, a symbol of remembrance for fallen soldiers. The comments sparked widespread outrage and led to calls for Cherry to be fired from Hockey Night in Canada.
Reactions to Controversies
Over the years, reactions to Don Cherry’s controversies have been mixed. Some fans and media personalities have defended him, saying that he is entitled to his opinions and that his remarks are simply a reflection of his love for the game of hockey and his passion for his country .