Does Don Cherry have the staying power to go all the way in the 2011 playoffs?
The grinding eight weeks of NHL postseason is not for the fainthearted. Games every second or third night. Travel. Pressure. In broadcasting, the light goes on every night for two games. Long nights, early mornings. Travel in the final rounds. While Cherry appears every second night (and usually leaves early) there were signs in the 2010 playoffs that the 77-year-old either ran out of gas or interest.
Where TSN has panels to distribute the load, Cherry's a solo act with a high bar to hurdle each appearance. Goofy ties and Dos Equis parodies may work on a weekly basis, but they get a little stale on a nightly basis. Plus, the absence of Canadian teams means fewer fawning fans shots as Cherry gets his fix of adulation. Then there are those pesky late-night games from Vancouver.
Without his beloved Maple Leafs as a fallback topic last spring, Cherry seemed out of ideas and inspiration once his other hobbyhorse, the Boston Bruins, blew a 3-0 games lead to Philadelphia in the second round. It was all boilerplate about checking the points and not screening goalies. In lieu of insight, we were treated to the cult of Cherry's flamboyant personality.
The Bruins are back in the playoffs, but there are also two Canadian teams out there. So it's imperative that Cherry focus on the Montreal Canadiens and the Stanley Cup favourite Vancouver Canucks (whose GM Mike Gillis played for The Don in Colorado). That means more than simply mangling Kevin Bieksa's name ("Bieska? Biseska? Biscuit Boy?")
Cherry had a bounce-back season in 20210-11 on the topics of equipment and player safety. He scored points on dithering linesman refusing to drop the puck. His feud with Toronto coach Ron Wilson over Nazem Kadri was alternately amusing and inane. Hockey Night In Canada needs its star not to take shifts off this postseason. With the clock ticking on both Cherry and the CBC's hegemony over playoff hockey, the pressure is on for vintage playoff Coach's Corner - especially if a Canadian team wins for the first time since 1993.
Tight And Bright: By the way, if anyone out there can figure out a way to compress the playoffs to six weeks, please let the NHL know. As part of the U.S. TV negotiations - expect a decision very soon - the league wanted to present the postseason as the NCAA does its basketball March Madness, which is over within three weeks. Packaging a leaner schedule is seen as a real bonus in the U.S., where fans check out quicker once their team is beaten.
It's no secret that the first two rounds of the playoffs are the best, and that momentum flags by week six. The problem is that four seven-game series in three time zones are hard to compress. Then there are owners who want more playoff teams. Your suggestions are gratefully welcomed at the NHL.
Talk to Me: What a stirring debate. Hard questions, keen observations, debaters taking a stand. But enough of the TSN Playoff Draft. Wonder how the leaders' election debate went?
We were almost brought to tears by NDP leader Jack Layton's plea to move the French language leaders' debate on Thursday so it didn't conflict with the Montreal/ Boston playoff opener. Tears of laughter. Mr. Layton, they have this thing called PVR. You may have been too busy with changing the climate to notice that you can tape one TV event even as you watch another. While this may be a revelation to you, the rest of the country can avail itself of 21st-century corporate innovation, catching the game and then (with fast-forward at the ready) your debate.
Purple Hayes: As reported last week, newcomer TSN Radio 1050 has lured 27-year-old Bryan Hayes from AM640 to host its 10-to-noon show starting today. In a field where promising young sports voices are rare these days in Canada, Hayes has shot to the top in a short time. He comes naturally by his radio chops. Dad Bill has been around Toronto radio for decades and his uncle John Derringer once hosted the Sportsnet Radio Fan 590 morning show and is now ratings king in Toronto's male 25-54 demographic.
"I never wanted to do anything else but this," he says. "It's a dream of mine. Because of the family ties, I feel like I've been in media business all my life."
Usual Suspects can remember a much younger Hayes visiting his dad at the Fan 590 in the 1990s. Recently he co-hosted the Bill Waters Show on AM640, Toronto's team broadcaster, where he had a chance to evaluate the Maple Leafs. "I think they're going in better direction," Hayes says. "It's a lot better than two, three years ago. I'm a [James]Reimer guy, and I like what Burke's done bringing in young guys and draft picks."
Hayes goes head-to-head with Globe and Mail columnist Jeff Blair in the 10-to-noon slot at Sportsnet Radio Fan 590. Should be interesting as the hockey guy - Hayes - takes on the baseball expert - Blair. Could be some channel hopping here depending on your preference in sports.
BTW: Jim Ralph grabs Hayes's old spot opposite Watters on AM640.
No Women Allowed: Amazing in this era that a female sportswriter be denied access to a dressing room. Then again, this is the Masters, where the 1950s are still thriving. Bergen Record columnist Tara Sullivan was denied entry into the men's change room by a female security guard who'd somehow got the notion that women aren't allowed equal treatment at Augusta National (at the Masters? Shocking.) Her male colleagues were ushered in to grill Rory McIlroy, who'd swallowed the olive on the last day of the event. Sullivan was barred.
"The security guard told me women were not allowed in because it was open shower area," Sullivan told reporters afterward. "I told her, 'Just like every other locker room. I've been in.'"
Apparently a member of the club requesting anonymity later admitted that this was all a big mistake. Nice. What was also a mistake is that Sullivan's colleagues who witnessed the barring didn't come to her defence and insist she be admitted, too. It's natural that under deadline pressure many might not have even known of the incident, but some fellow journalist in the press corps could have backed her, no?