by Guest Contributor Jehanzeb Dar, originally published at Broken Mystic
Someone needs to call Don Cherry out on his childish xenophobic rants. Regarded as a legendary ice hockey analyst and Canadian icon, Don Cherry is known for his often inflammatory and controversial remarks, but it seems that the general public recurrently lets his ethnocentric diatribes slide rather than holding him accountable.
For years, Cherry has been characterizing European players as “cowards” for not understanding the “Canadian way” of hockey. When asked to comment on why he didn’t have any European players on his junior team, he said, “They call me a racist because I don’t want any Europeans coming to play for my Ice Dogs. If a kid comes over here and becomes a Canadian, I’ll put him on in a minute. But I will not parachute him in so that he can grab the money and run.” Cherry took similar jabs at the dazzling Czech center, Jaromir Jagr, accusing him of being “everything that’s wrong with the NHL. He gets hit, he goes down and stays there. Get up!” In the same interview, Cherry compared Jagr to another hockey legend, Tim Horton, a player who, according to Cherry, would stay on the ice and finish his shift even if “blood would be coming down his face.” Apparently, Cherry thinks only Canadians know how to play “tough.”
So what’s eating at Don Cherry these days? See number 8 on the Washington Capitals, a remarkably talented Russian left-winger named Alexander Ovechkin. Actually, to say he is “remarkably talented” is an understatement. The guy is a magician with the puck and arguably the most exciting player to watch in the NHL today. Playing in his fourth season, Ovechkin not only led the league in goals, but he has also earned his place in the pantheon of hockey superstars. Cherry’s beef? Ovechkin’s goal celebrations are too “over-the-top.” That’s right. Ovechkin’s enthusiasm is too much for Cherry’s “Canadian” standards.
On CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada, Cherry complained that Ovechkin was acting like “those goofy soccer guys” by “jumping up and down” after scoring goals. In pure dogmatic fashion, Cherry pointed at the screen and lectured Canadian kids not to act like Ovechkin. Instead, he tells kids that they should behave the “Canadian way” and act like Joe Thornton, Joe Sakic, Brendan Shanahan, Jarome Iginla, and Bobby Orr (all Canadian-born players). I didn’t realize the NHL had a “Canadians only” stamp on it.
What’s more disturbing is how ethnocentric and racist Cherry’s presentation is. He shows clips of dark-skinned international soccer players jubilantly celebrating on the field, calls them “goofs” and says, “Look at this! This is what we want our hockey players to act with?” Then he shows clips of Ovechkin’s celebrations and yammers, “Look at this! Does he not remind you of a soccer player?” For those who missed it, here is the clip: