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(Don) Cherry-Picking Local Hockey Players Won't Work

Posted: 03/ 6/2012 4:32 pm

What a great weekend for the NHL. Cody Hodgson and Zack Kassian -- and Marc-Andre Gragnani and Alex Sulzer -- played against their former teams in Vancouver, the Dallas Stars continued to be "real," and the Toronto Maple Leafs left the stone age behind by hiring bronze age coach Randy Carlyle.

So, of course, we're going to talk about...Don Cherry.

Listen, say what you will about Don, but the man knows his hockey. Always has, and always will. It's his personal rants and his political flavour that irk his critics, not his passion or knowledge for the game itself.

Take his firing from the Colorado Rockies as an example. Although the team was awful -- remember, this was the franchise that became the pre-New Jersey Devils -- Cherry wasn't fired for their record on the ice, as atrocious as it was. He was fired for strangling defenceman Mike McEwen.

And then not for the act, but for his response: "My only regret is I didn't choke him harder."

(*We have no official source for that information, except Wikipedia. The "choke him harder" line and that being the reason for his firing was detailed by Don, however, in Rock 'Em Sock 'Em 8. *Fast forward to 15:00.)

On Saturday -- on "Coaches Corner" -- Cherry proceeded down a road that was surprising, but it made you think. The thesis? The Toronto Maple Leafs should have more players from Ontario.

He listed several reasons, and most of them could be labeled as "intangibles." Things like loyalty and supporting local manufacturing. "Intangibles" are things that don't translate directly to wins or money, but they make you feel better about yourself when you lose.

That said, he also touched on the skill of Ontario-born players.

From Sportsnet:

"Maybe I am prejudice. Maybe I am for Ontario players...Go back to 1993. Think of all the guys. They were all from Ontario... We were promised truculence and we never got it. I had to say it. I was a little carried away but that's how I feel."

He shot down the notion that many local players such as John Tavares, Rick Nash, or Steven Stamkos have signed long-term extensions in smaller markets to avoid playing in the "hockey centre of the universe."

Now, on the home-grown, fluffy feeling of signing Ontario players... whatever. Just getting a guy from Ontario is not a guarantee of success. Just getting annnnnyyyybody from Ontario will not get you wins, and it will not get you Stanley Cups. (*Just ask the Calgary how that "All-Alberta" thing is working out, or if it did work out.)

Listen, if Don Cherry believes that the Leafs should sign players from Ontario just to sign them, he's wrong. There is no benefit to trying to kid yourself that somebody will help your team just because he's from your neck of the woods. The Wings win with Swedes, not Michiganders. The Bruins won with Canadians, not Bay Staters.

But, yes, Ontairo produces the best hockey talent, and it's not surprising. In a sport where Canadians produce a monopoly of the product -- and in a country where Ontario accounts for over a third of the national population -- the best players and the majority of players will be from Ontario.

Simple math.

So, if Cherry's argument is "sign the best players from the best province," then he's correct. And, if the Maple Leafs want to tap that unlimited market, they should start.

Otherwise, guys like Stamkos, Tavares, and Nash will be heading elsewhere, because that's where the Stanley Cup is heading, too.

*This "article" was originally "published" on White Cover Magazine...

 

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