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Hockey commentator and former coach Don Cherry looks on during the 2011 CHL/NHL top prospects skills competition in Toronto, January 18, 2011.    (Reuters)

Hockey commentator and former coach Don Cherry looks on during the 2011 CHL/NHL top prospects skills competition in Toronto, January 18, 2011.   

(Reuters)

A Q&A with Grapes: Don Cherry on lockouts, life and why he’ll never get into the Hockey Hall of Fame Add to ...

Not only do they pay $5,000 for sticks, equipment, $10,000 [fees] to get in, they’ve got to pay $6 to get in [to the rink] themselves. The players do! That’s ridiculous. It’s the most expensive sport in the world to play, there’s no doubt.

JM: Is there a way to fix that?

DC: No. I don’t see any fix. I wish Hockey Canada, somebody would help out. Down in the States they help out. The government doesn’t help out as usual. I would like to see Hockey Canada with all the money they make on the junior somehow help out. But they won’t.

JM: You obviously pride yourself on being a blue collar guy - does it bother you that hockey’s becoming a wealthy person’s sport?

DC: Well it really bothers me when I see a guy that’s working in a factory and he’s got to spend all that money and the travel and the whole deal. It really bothers me. I talk about it all the time, but I don’t know how you fix it.

There’s another reason, too... Now you’re either in it 100 per cent, totally dedicated to hockey, or you’re not. You can’t have like baseball and football and soccer... you’ve got to get up five in the morning, freeze, $300 stick and pay a ton. Every kid that’s in hockey and their parents is totally dedicated. That’s the only good thing about it. But it is too expensive.

JM: Right now you’ve been promoting the 24th edition of Rock ‘em Sock ‘em all around the city – is it a bit shocking that it’s been 24 years?

DC: Oh yeah. We never dreamed. We thought we’d do one. A guy in Winnipeg with Quality Records did it and we figured we’d do one. Then we did two. Well we’ll try another one. I can’t believe it now. But we keep the price as the same as it’s been since the start. Never over $20. It’s a good Christmas stuffer for the kids.

It’s pretty funny when the mothers tell me all the time that ‘you’re the best babysitter. We just put you on and I get the turkey ready. But by the end of the day I’m pretty sick of your voice.’

Jamie, the girl that’s in charge here, says she’s been watching them since she was three! I remember the first time someone said that, they were around 35, and I thought wait a minute. Jeez, I guess so.

JM: What’s next for you? Will you stay with Hockey Night in Canada as long as you can?

DC: I get asked that all the time. I just go along and do it. I have fun and if they want me back next year, I’ll do it. And I’m sure they will. And I have fun at it. It’s not like [operating] a jackhammer.

The only time it’s really, really tough is in the playoffs. You go every other night for two months. That’s a tough grind. Then we get on the road and I’ve got about four suits to carry. It’s tough. Tough business. But I have fun. But I’ve been doing it so long, I can’t see myself not doing it.

If something happens, you know, I get fired... I’ve been close to being fired many times. Many times. When I tick them off they say, ‘Don this is your last year.’ I say ‘we’ll see.’ That really pisses them off.

I’ve been told a couple times this is your last year. And they’re gone by the way. The ones who told me.

JM: Do you think about slowing down at all?

DC: No! I’m not slowing down. I did the book, I did the Rock ‘em Sock ‘em, I did the Grapeline show... Once you slow down, as Satchel Paige says, somebody’s catching up on you. So I just keep going the same. I’m not going to do as many banquets. I’ve got to stop doing banquets.

You know why I have to stop? Because if there are 700 people there, every one wants an autograph. I’m sitting there the whole time. Once I get caught into it, I’m done.

JM: It’s the same sort of question, but do you ever think about retirement?

DC: No, I never do. Like I said, if I was on the jackhammer, like I used to be all the time, I’d think of retirement then. But it is a lot of pressure. Like today I’ll go out [for an autograph signing] and you’ve got to be nice to everybody. I try to treat everybody as if it was my daughter and be nice as much as I can...

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