A lot of people came down hard on the Grapes in 2011. But the funny thing is, when I sat down with Don Cherry, it wasn’t a loud-mouthed lout I was chatting with, rather a laid back, relaxed guy, who reminded me an awful lot of my father-in-law.
I came with a list of questions from Twitter and Facebook, and he didn’t shirk at any of them.
How often do you visit your tailor?
Too much. When I get a suit done, I really do get the cloth, some of them, at Fabricland, believe it or not. And I bring it over and I would say I’ve got about 4 fittings before they’re right. So I’m there quite a bit. And it’s a long drive from Mississauga to Yonge Street, where he is. To get them just perfect.
What is the best advice you’d give a young hockey player?
I’ll just tell you that if you want to make it to the National Hockey League, the advice is, you have to be totally dedicated. If you’re not totally dedicated, there’s too many kids out there who are and you’re not going to make it.
If you go to watch the minor midget games, you can see they’re totally dedicated; their whole life if hockey, and that’s the only way you’re going to make it. Hard work’ll beat talent every time. And you can talk to anybody, if you don’t work hard, I don’t care how much talent you’ve got, they’ll just stroke you out.
I’ve heard that you can tell by the time they’re 6 years old if they’ll make it.
Ya, you can tell whether they’re got it or if he’s going to work, if he’s not going to work. And I watched a kid with a lot of talent and he lost the puck and shrugged his shoulders and let the guy go. I looked up and every scout ticked him off.
So what’s more important for a young player to master, skating or stick handling?
Oh, skating. You can get away with a lot if you can skate. There are a lot of guys in the National Hockey League that couldn’t score on anything but they can skate. And the name of the game now is skating.
Even though it gets you into trouble sometimes, how important is it for you to stand for what you believe in? And have you ever just walked away?
Well, I really don’t…I know a lot of people say that ‘Don says what he thinks’ and that, but I just go on and do it. I don’t think it’s going to be controversial and that, and the first time I see that I’m doing something to be controversial, or trying to get in the news and that, then I know I should get out of the game. I just talk the way most guys talk. I’m only an old construction worker and I speak for the guys in the factory and construction workers and that, and if they don’t like it then I’ve had a good run.
Do you plan on opening more restaurants?
Ya, in fact 2 are just opening up in Niagara Falls. There’s about 18 of them open now. I don’t own the franchises, they’re licensees, but we have a company that takes care of them and makes sure the food is good and the whole deal.
Do you really use the prayer they showed in the mini-series?
Ya I do, every day. The very first one that Jerod (the actor playing Grapes) did so good, that actually happened to me: I couldn’t get a job sweeping floors and I asked the lord to help me and I went from that day on my knees, and 3 years later I was coaching Bobby Orr.