Red Sox Will See Don Cherry On Canada Day


The hockey season is over, for now, but that doesn’t mean the hockey icons fade into the mist. The Boston Red Sox will be playing today, on Canada Day in Toronto, and a famous Canadian will be throwing out the first pitch. The gentleman is well known to Red Sox Nation, as many of them are also Boston Bruins fans.

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Don Cherry, the former Bruins head coach, will toss out the pitch to start the festivities in the Rogers Centre. Joe Warmington of The Toronto Sun reported the announcement, with Cherry saying, “I can’t wait, […] I will be throwing out the ceremonial first pitch.’ And guess who’ll catch that first pitch? Not Canadian catcher Russell Martin, who would usually be up for such an honour. ‘This time it’s going to be Josh Donaldson,’ said Cherry. ‘I think it’s pretty neat.'”

Not one to mince words, or be mistaken for Shakespeare for that matter, Cherry is known for telling things the way he sees them, especially on his ‘Coach’s Corner’ segment of Canada’s biggest weekly sports show Hockey Night In Canada. Every hockey fan in Canada, which is almost everyone in the country, tunes in to see the game and listen to what Cherry thinks about the great game. When you think of Canadian legends, Cherry is one person who comes to mind.

Bostonians would remember Cherry, nick-named Grapes (long story), standing behind the Bruins’ bench from 1974 to 1979. His flamboyant style of dress as well as speech has brought him some scrutiny from many people in hundreds of countries who felt that he offended their ears or their eyes. Cherry has never cared about that, as he has lived his life the way that he felt he should. He did the same when he coached. As much as he loved players like Bobby Orr for their talents, he wanted a team who would punish opposing players from even thinking about scoring on Boston. His team was given the nicknames ‘the lunch-pail gang’ and ‘the Big Bad Bruins’.

His legacy in Boston may, on the surface, be a Jack Adams trophy for being the best coach in 1976 and his quick departure in 1979. After bringing the Bruins to two Stanley Cup Finals, only to lose them both to the Montreal Canadiens, Boston was called for too many men on the ice, which led to their loss against the Canadiens in the ’79 semi-final.

Still, Cherry’s fingerprints on the Bruins and Boston still live on, to this day. From lead singer Gord Downie, of the famous Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip, wearing a Bruins sweater in their music video to Cherry and Orr’s friendship leading to them being the celebrity coaches for the Ontario Hockey League prospects All-Star Game, multiple generations of Canadians across the country become Bruins fans because of the hard-nosed, workman-like attitude that Cherry brought to Boston.

Many Canadians have also noticed that same attitude on display in the recent teams that the Boston Red Sox have had. The beards. The attitude. The why-not-us? mentality that was infectious during the 2013 World Series Championship run. Canadians have seen that Bostonian personality as similar to their 148-year-old national pride, hence the fandom over one of America’s oldest cities and professional sports teams.

Cherry has also often connected himself to baseball, especially in recent weeks. He interrupted his own segment during the Stanley Cup playoffs, arguably the most important time in hockey around the world, to promote Josh Donaldson’s play to get everyone to vote him in as the starting third baseman at the All-Star Game, this July. “Grapes himself was a great baseball player and his father, Del, is in the Kingston Sports Hall of Fame for baseball. Cherry is a huge Blue Jays fan. ‘After the pitch, I am going to go on the air as well with my pals on Rogers Sportsnet — Gregg Zaun and Jamie Campbell,’ he said. ‘It’s going to be a great Canada Day.'”

Hopefully for Red Sox fans, Cherry will be a bit disappointed, at least about the final score of the game. And yet, Cherry’s presence symbolizes not only Canadian pride but a link between Boston, the Bruins, the Red Sox, and the Great White North.

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