Sunday, 3 September 2017

TBC: Don Cherry's Sports Heroes

With a long weekend upon us, I decided to use some of that extra time to get some reading in, and I'm happy to say that I did. I love exercising the mind through reading. While some may say that the book in question wouldn't really qualify as "exercise", I actually really enjoyed today's entry into Teebz's Book Club. So without further adieu, Teebz's Book Club is proud to review Don Cherry's Sports Heroes, written by Don Cherry and published by Doubleday Canada via Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Don Cherry's Sports Heroes is less about the guys he follows in hockey, and more about the guys he has interviewed on his former TV and radio show called Grapevine. Sure, there are hockey players that were on the show, but the stories in Don Cherry's Sports Heroes include many other people from the world of sports!

I'm not sure that Don S. Cherry needs an introduction, but let's do one for fun. He is the featured star on "Coach's Corner" on the CBC's Hockey Night In Canada program, and he has produced volumes of hockey highlight videos and DVDs under the "Rock 'Em Sock 'Em" name. Don has written a number of books, and he also has hosted a nationally syndicated radio show with Brian Williams for a number of years. He was a player and coach - most notably of the Bobby Orr-led Boston Bruins - while winning the Jack Adams Award once. Recently, Don Cherry has devoted a large amount of his time to raising funds for Rose Cherry's Home for Kids, a hospice for terminally ill children. The late Rose Cherry was Don's wife who passed away from lung cancer in 1997, and Don has worked tirelessly to try to help as many children as he can. Don is also a proud father to his two children, Tim and Cindy.

For those that have never seen an episode of Grapevine, I've included an episode at the end of this article. The show was first filmed in a studio that was decorated like an English pub, and it wasn't long before filming moved to Hamilton, Ontario to the bar that Don owned called The Grapevine. Don would film live in front of the actual restaurant crowd with the people he interviewed sitting around and telling stories with Don. The show worked really well in terms of its format, and it drew good ratings on CHCH-TV who filmed and aired the program.

Don invited people from all sports to the show with a heavy emphasis on the people that he wanted to interview. Tim, his son, would produce the show and book the interviews, so it may have been easier in knowing his dad when it came to booking guests. Among the non-hockey people who appeared on the show included former MLB umpire, the late Ron Luciano; boxing legend Joe Frazier; Don's agent Gerry Patterson; and, writer, author, and actor George Plimpton. Of course, hockey players like Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr, Wendel Clark, Doug Gilmour, and Bob Probert also saw time on the show!

Don Cherry's Sports Heroes is literally a who's who of the best storytellers in sports or people who were involved in great stories that were told on Grapevine. Don really does a great job in explaining some gaps in stories while letting the interviews done on the show fill in the main parts. The key about all the people in the book are that they are Don's favorite sports people who touched his life in some way. To get a glimpse into who Don Cherry really respects may surprise you!

I think my favorite chapter of Don Cherry's Sports Heroes was the one with George Plimpton. Plimpton was a journalist and author who would attend training camps with professional sports teams to get an "inside look" at the sport while writing books about the experience. George attended Bruins camp while Cherry was coaching, and he wanted to be a goaltender. His only action was five minutes against the Philadelphia Flyers in a pre-game before the actual preseason game started. For someone who hadn't played a minute of hockey in his life, would this be suicide?
DON: Now, tell us about the big game.
GEORGE: The Flyers scored on the first shot on net. I thought, "Oh no, are they going to score on every shot?"
DON: Then came the penalty shot.
GEORGE: The faceoff was in the Flyers end and the players - I believe Mike Milbury was the ringleader - hatched a plan to let a Flyer have a breakaway. Mike threw his stick, which is against the rules, and the Flyers were awarded a penalty shot.
DON: Yes, and Reggie "The Rifle" Leach took the shot. Tell us what happened.
GEORGE: Well, when he skated down the ice, I hoped he would shoot the puck and not try and skate around me. I just hurtled myself at him and he shot the puck and it hit my pad and I made the save. The five minutes was over and I only let in one goal.
Not bad, right? George Plimpton goes up against the big, bad Flyers and only gives up one goal! The key in that story was that Plimpton left the bench for an interview with Sports Illustrated after his time in the net, and he missed one of the biggest brawls in NHL history!

Overall, Don Cherry's Sports Heroes is a fun book that takes you through a number of funny stories that happened on the Grapevine TV show. There are some interesting tidbits of information in the stories told, so you may even learn a thing or two along the way as you read through Don Cherry's Sports Heroes. I enjoyed the stories told and picked up a few new pieces of information and, for that, Don Cherry's Sports Heroes certainly deserves the the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval!

Find Don Cherry's Sports Heroes at your local bookstore or library, and enjoy the stories that were told to Don Cherry on his iconic show!

As promised, here is an episode of Grapevine found on YouTube. In this episode, Don Cherry interviews Detroit Red Wings scorer Dino Ciccarelli and enforcer Bob Probert! There's a chapter in the book about this show!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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