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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.   


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

JM: So I’ll have to ask you about the lockout...

DC: Well, that’s one that nobody wins. I don’t get paid. [Ron] MacLean gets paid, but I don’t get paid. A lot of people are like me. People that work around the building, in confectioneries and serve the beer, they’re the ones that really counted on it.

And I feel sorry for the players, for instance, some of the older players, 31 or 32, on the last year of their contract, they probably won’t be back. There will be 200 players that won’t be back. It’s tough to lose that money - it really is. It’s okay for the guys like Crosby making $10-million and that but these other guys are making $800,000 and they’re going to lose it and they’ve got mortgages and everything.

The fans think millionaires fighting billionaires - well that’s not true. There’s a lot of guys out there, fourth liners and sixth defencemen, making four or five hundred thousand - which is a lot of money, but don’t forget the lifespan [of a player] is only four or five years. So it’s not like making $800,000 forever. They’re the guys that are going to take it in the ear.

JM: Do you take a side on the lockout?

DC: I can see both sides, I really can. I hate to be a fence guy, but you got the owners, they did this, the last one they signed, they gave them 57 per cent.

And I can see the owners’ side, too. They say ‘hold it, we lived with 43 per cent, every other sport has 50 per cent. And you got this?’

The players, I feel sorry for guys like [Jarome] Iginla and stuff like that. He loses $7-million. It’s tough. Money never to get back. It’s gone. So I think they’re both at fault. And the sad thing is nobody’s going to win. And when it’s over, nobody’s going to be happy with the deal. They’ll both be unhappy with the deal. Which is ridiculous.

I don’t know who they’re fighting for. Are they fighting for the past, are they fighting for the future or are they fighting for now? Because I know one thing, if I’m around 31 or 32, I’m getting a little nervous.

JM: Do you think there’s going to be a season?

DC: If it’s not done by three quarters of the way through December, I think it’s over. It has to be done by then. You could play a 42-game schedule - I wouldn’t mind that. As long as they don’t try to cram them in because you get a lot of injuries.

JM: You mentioned on Twitter people ask you all the time how do you keep busy during the lockout and you said you’re busier than ever. What’s the answer to what you’re up to?

DC: My son [OHL central scout Tim Cherry] was out last night, we were watching minor midget, which we do three times a week. It starts at 9:30 and over at 11. I get my hockey fix that way and I always have. I love minor midget hockey better than any hockey.

Then on TV I watch Marlies and the juniors and that, too. People think you’re not working Saturday, we better get him to do something, but I get more requests to do stuff now than before. I’ve got to stop, I’m doing too much. I’ve got too much on my plate.

JM: Why major midget? Seems an odd choice.

DC: They haven’t been spoiled. There’s no agents. Well, they’re just starting to get agents. They give everything. Nobody floats. And the referees are really good. You never see any fights - good to put this in - I think I’ve seen one in two years. No parents screaming and hollering. I hear about bad parents.

It is too expensive though. I know one father spent $5,000 on sticks. Ridiculous, eh? And you have to do it... his centreman’s got a $300 stick. What is he going to play with? Wood?

But that’s my favourite hockey to watch.

JM: It’s interesting you bring up the cost to play - that’s obviously something that’s changed over time. You talk to people who work in Major Junior, and they say more and more the kids there are from wealthier backgrounds. The demographics of hockey are changing.

DC: It’s true. Upper middle class or middle class. The middle class is still in there. But a single mother doesn’t have a chance. I’ve seen that. It’s a sad thing. A player’s good, but it’s just too expensive.

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