This didn't start out to be a book review column, but I received the new
Now, Strachan's role was more than just transcription, collation and fact checking. He kept the language pure Cherry; meaning the English language sometimes takes a back seat to Grapesian syntax. Cherry rolled on the stories and Strachan added insight into the many references while correcting the pronunciation of Cherryesque versions.
The pair did make a conscious effort to clean up any profanity so the read would be kid-appropriate, but that doesn't mean this book is for everyone. English professors might want to avoid it. Same thing for anyone who is offended by violence in sports, or those of you out there who have a dim view of drinking and carousing as a way of life. But for the rest of us, this book is pure joy -- a little piece of guilty hockey pleasure.
In that sense, it represents Don Cherry extremely well. He's not for everyone, but he is hard to ignore. After all, outside of a couple of iconic players -- namely
With all that, there are glimpses into the man behind the persona -- what drives him, touches him and ticks him off, with a few honest, heartfelt admissions of regret along the way. Cherry never apologizes for his controversial -- and what more than a few people feel is racist -- contempt for European players, but he does wish he hadn't ripped Kings coach
Cherry cites a relentless litany of players and teams he alienated with his merciless tongue, among them
The ribald and at times self-deprecating humor keeps Cherry's personal musings about his mother (he was very close to her), beloved late wife and trademark dog Blue from becoming maudlin. The real beauty of the book is in the sweeping travelogue history of the game of hockey, from
In the end, what resonates is the hardscrabble cultural roots of hockey. Cherry recounts playing junior hockey for the notorious
In one incident, the teenaged Cherry tried to help cover for a pair of star teammates who had been caught drinking under age. Believing that everyone else on the team was going to make the bogus admission that they, too, had been drinking -- and thus dilute the stars' punishment -- Grapes ended up catching the coach's wrath when no one else stepped forward. The root here is about making choices and how those choices can impact one's future. In Cherry's case, it became the seminal moment in defining the difference between being a team player and standing up for your convictions and being your own man.
I think we know how that turned out in Cherry's case, but there is so much more to discover in this little gem. If you love hockey, there is something here for you. His recounting will no doubt take you back to episodes in your own lifetime -- memories he calls, "moments to live forever." Grapes has had a lot of moments, not all of them pretty, but they make for a sweet read.