Sunday, February 08, 2009

On the Shelf, Part VIII: Good Stuff

Image courtesy of Joe Fletcher

The saga of my mysterious upper lower-body/middle lower-body injury continues. Physical therapy didn’t do the trick, so it’s back to the doctor for a re-evaluation tomorrow. It’s a downer not playing—and worse, the not knowing what’s wrong or when I’ll be back—but Don Cherry’s Hockey Stories and Stuff has been a pick-me-up difficult to put down.

If Gordie Howe, who will turn 81 on March 31, is Mr. Hockey®, then Don Cherry, who celebrated his 75th birthday on Thursday, is Mr. Hockey Storyteller. In his book, as told to Al Strachan, “Grapes” delivers page after page of vintage vignettes, which he draws from his vast experience as a player, coach, and commentator.

Cherry’s down-to-earth delivery transported me to wherever he ventured: on the ice, on the road, and into the announcer booth. I had figured he’d include stuff about the Bruins; that he’d share nuggets about my beloved Colorado Rockies; and that he’d take me behind the scenes of Hockey Night in Canada. Cherry didn’t disappoint.

With his trademark brashness, that blunt-force honesty—that which people tend to love or loathe—Cherry sometimes made me wince. But more often than not, I either laughed (picture this: Wayne Gretzky in long—presumably—underwear) or felt a fondness for the flashy haberdasher’s delight. Cherry admits his mistakes and becomes vulnerable. This softer side shushes his insolence.

The most endearing anecdote, for me, was not about Bobby Orr or Barry Beck, but rather about his bull terrier. “Blue and I had a favourite song,” Cherry begins the tale.

I’ll let you discover for yourself what that song is and hope that you’ll find Cherry’s yarns as engaging as I did.

Thumbs up, Grapes. Good stuff.
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