Sunday, August 22, 2010


When Hockey Night In Canada tees up Don Cherry's sideshow during intermissions, it's most often a mix of hockey-related, semi-coherent bombast and blatant sentiment in his invariable tribute to fallen Canadian soldiers. I've often thought the two sides of Cherry's little presentation an incongruous pairing. It's not really, though, when you think about it.

How often to hockey players talk about "going to war" with teammates? Or say "it's a war out there?" Even the terminology entrenched in the game's language is war-related. He fired a cannon. The defence was under enemy attack. The third line plugged away in the trenches. They battled in the corners. In an age when most Canadian, American and European men live in peace and prosperity, playing a game like hockey is the closest they come to experiencing anything approaching warfare.

When a team is looking for the ideal captain, in that light, he has to be someone the players think of as a warrior. He needs to be someone whom others will follow without question. He should be a guy his teammates are a little bit afraid of; maybe someone who's just a tiny bit batshit crazy when needed...a guy who can give errant teammates The Look and have the goods to back it up. He doesn't have to be a star, but he should give his all every night and expect others to do the same. He needs to have the others' backs always, on and off the ice. That's what leadership is about. And maybe that's what Don Cherry is lamenting when he pays tribute to the lost young men of the Armed Forces. Real leaders aren't all that common, and losing one is a sad thing.

If a hockey team is lucky enough to have one, it should recognize him officially. I wonder to whom the Canadiens will give the nod this fall? Who will be the warrior they'll depend on to lead them into battle?


Robert Rice said...

I can't stand it when they start the warrior stuff or 'he's a real soldier'. Professional hockey players are at best, mercenaries and a lot of them having about as much as loyalty as a mercenary.

War is not knowing whether you'll be alive 10 seconds from now. Hockey is not knowing if you're going to win a game that ends a couple hours from now.

Jessica and Stephan said...

Sadly, they let that warrior go with Koivu. He'll be hard one to replace. And to those out there who would bash him, just like JT said:

"He doesn't have to be a star, but he should give his all every night and expect others to do the same. He needs to have the others' backs always, on and off the ice. That's what leadership is about."

There was no doubt Koivu did that. There are many good candidates on the team for captain this year, but I don't think any of them are quite in the same caliber as my humble opinion anyways.

J.T. said...

@Serious: Agreed. I'm pointing out the mindset of the modern player...many of whom see themselves as comparable to soldiers.

pfhabs said...


-of all the bewildering decisions made in July 09, and there were many--some very stupid, the decision or circumstances that allowed/forced Saku to leave the organization will remain with me as the one decision that points to a significant void in vision and leadership in the CH management ranks

-that an individual of Saku's stature/character on and off the ice was treated in such a cavalier manner is indicative of rot in the structure and components of the management team

-I continue to look forward to the immediate and complete removal of the Boivin cabal

sass said...

sorry JT, hate to be a pain, but this sticks out like a sore thumb:
"when he pays tribute to the lost young men of the Armed Forces"...
we've lost women too.

Anonymous said...

Not to mention the fact we have no business being there in the first place.

Shan said...

Don Cherry does expect players to have a soldier-like seriousness about them. He expects them to not celebrate too much when they score. He praises players who score and then skate over to the bench like it was nothing. I don't get why it can't be just a game and why they can't celebrate like Ovechkin and be obnoxious sometimes.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a job for youppi!

V said...

I like your warrior analogy JT.

Business is another area that borrows heavily (at least it used to) from warfare. Probably a reflection of men's domination of both up to the last 10 years. I doubt if woman had dominated these areas of endeavour we would use the same analogies.

As for the reference to Saku above (as good a warrior as the Habs have seen in awhile), he was my favorite player on the Habs. But I was not overly disapointed with his leaving. I had the sense (to use a phrase from warfare) he had 'lost his command'... the room appeared to be a disaster and the captain has to wear much of that. I would love to have seen him stay, but he couldn't if he was no longer captain. I bet they would have retained him if he hadn't been captain and they could afford him - difficult given the free agents they signed.

Anonymous said...

Mike Keane wasn't too crazy (well, not in a scary way) but he was a great captain. Way more leadership ability than scoring skills.

I'll ignore Koivu, no team success, ditto Damphousse (amazing players, both), but Carbonneau and Gainey weren't nuts or scary.

Based on recent history it looks like a defensive forward would be the best choice (if only they really had a shutdown guy). Yvan Cournoyer was the last offensive player to get a cup, though there were lots before him.

Based on that hypothesis no habs cup until Fortier or Dumont or someone comes through.

Bah, promote Desharnais and make him captain. Koviu's successor! Too bad the team would have to suck for years to continue the parallel.

Love the blog.