TORONTO – Don Cherry has spent plenty of time criticizing Ron Wilson, but the outspoken hockey commentator wasn’t happy to see the Toronto Maple Leafs coach labelled as the man NHL players least want to play for.
In a recent players’ poll conducted by CBC and the NHL Players’ Association, 24 per cent of 318 respondents named Wilson as the coach they’d least like to have.
“I was very disappointed in the thing,” Cherry said Wednesday on a conference call. “Coaching is hard enough without getting polls like that, that’s the way I (think).”
In recent years, Cherry has often taken shots at Wilson during his “Coach’s Corner” segment on “Hockey Night in Canada.” He’s called Wilson everything from “Napoleon” to “pompous and arrogant” to “bully.”
The players’ poll also listed the Maple Leafs as the fifth least desirable team to play for. Cherry knows how to change that.
“As far as playing in Toronto, when you’re not winning, if they were here and they were in first spot (it would be different),” he said. “Believe me, Toronto would be one of the first (places) that people would want to go to.”
Cherry was a fan of changes to the NHL’s all-star weekend with one exception—seeing Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel selected last during the inaugural player draft in Raleigh last weekend.
“I wasn’t too happy about Kessel sitting there and I don’t think anybody was,” said Cherry. “I think (NHL vice-president) Brendan Shanahan tried something new and when you try something new there’s a few wrinkles you get out of it. I think the kids enjoyed picking—the way it went back and forth and the banter—and it just showed how great our kids are. Our athletes, we’re the best of all.
“Every one of them, (they’re) good guys and (went) along with things. The skills was pretty good too.”
CBC held the conference call Wednesday to promote Hockey Day in Canada, which will be held Feb. 12 in Whitehorse, Yukon. The 11th annual event features an all-Canadian NHL tripleheader and will show highlights from a Western Hockey League game between Vancouver and Kamloops live from Whitehorse.
In addition to Cherry and co-host Ron MacLean, a number of CBC personalities and former NHL players will be on location, including Trevor Linden, Wendel Clark, Pat Quinn and Ken Dryden.
MacLean grew up in Whitehorse and is bringing along his 88-year-old father, who will be returning for the first time in 43 years. The “Coach’s Corner” duo joked that his presence will likely make for a quieter weekend than normal.
“This will be the first one that we haven’t had a hangover doing,” said Cherry. “It will be a good one.”