December 30, 2011
The video begins like so many other Hockey Night in Canada Coach's Corner segments: Don Cherry in a garish jacket, ranting about a hot topic in the NHL; to his right, Ron MacLean playing the bemused comedic straight man.
Nine seconds into the clip, things yet weird. As he often does, Cherry presses his hands on the desk in front of him to emphasize a point. As his fingers hit to the tabletop we hear a loud cacophony of piano notes. He bangs the fingertips of his right hand down three times; each time, more piano music, high notes from the right side of the keyboard.
This continues throughout the ingenious 1-minute, 54-second video of "Don Cherry's Piano Desk", which finally provides the old-school commentator with jaunty musical accompaniment. The absurdity of the clip, the flawless execution of the concept and a cultural icon being parodied proved to be an irresistible combination: The video, posted to YouTube on Dec. 23, went viral and is nearing 600,000 views as of Friday.
Where did this video come from? Who's the twisted mind behind it?
Turns out, it was joke among friends that turned into an Internet sensation.
Ryan Broadbent, 30, loves hockey but doesn't follow the NHL fanatically like others in Oshawa, Ont., do every season. But like so many other Canadians, watching Don Cherry on Hockey Night In Canada every Saturday was ritualistic.
Broadbent and his friends would watch the featured game but mute the commentary, playing music instead. When Cherry would appear with his rants for the week, off went the music and up went the volume.
"We all think Don Cherry is super entertaining and I think anyone would be hard pressed to disagree," he said.
Last season, Broadbent shared an observation: During his commentaries, Cherry would tap his fingers as if he was playing an invisible keyboard. It became a running joke during every Coach's Corner; Dec. 17's edition, featuring Cherry's comments about Canadiens coach Randy Cunneyworth, was no exception.
"Later that week I was telling my work friends to watch Cherry's hands on the next Coach's Corner and pretend that he's sitting in front a piano pounding away at the keys. Instead of waiting for the next Coach's Corner, they suggested that I should make a video with the piano added in," he said.
So Broadbent took the video, popped it into Apple's GarageBand and showed off the mash-up to his coworkers the next day. They laughed. Hard. So he popped it onto YouTube in order to share it with some other friends on Facebook.
"At first I was only expecting a few thousand hits, tops. And that was being optimistic," he said. "However, it just took off and stated being talked about all over the place. I've been receiving constant emails, texts and Facebook messages saying things like 'I just heard your video mentioned on the radio.'"
He was a little nervous about CBC's response to a parody of their biggest on-air talent. But Broadbent received the blessing of a spokesperson this week, and it was featured on their news program "The National."
"By no means am I trying to make fun of Don in this video, I think he's great and every bit as entertaining as the sport he contributes so much to," he said. "Don Cherry's Piano Desk is just meant for a quick laugh based on a small observation."
An observation that, frankly, is going to change the way thousands of hockey fans watch Coach's Corner — at least for the time being.
"I'm sure many people have been watching HNIC for years and thought nothing of Don's finger tapping," he said. "When they see the piano video, it seems so obvious and they can't help but laugh."