December 13, 2009
It's always irrational when critics ask provocative commentators to change their opinions for some sort of altruistic endeavor. Asking them to change, or ignore, their own ideology for the sake of one group's sense of social justice is absurd -- they'd be violating a basic trust with their followers.
Yet there was Dr. Charles Tator, a Toronto neurosurgeon, asking Don Cherry of CBC Sports to grab the torch on the campaign to lessen concussions and hits to the head in hockey. Instead, he said, Cherry promotes an aggressive style of hockey that leads to them. From CBC Sports:
"He's a negative influence," Dr. Charles Tator told CBC News in reference to Cherry, a popular personality on Hockey Night in Canada. "The aggressive, lack-of-respect hockey that he preaches - we need to get that out of the game."
Tator, an expert on brain injuries, said hockey culture needs to change and Cherry could influence that. "If he took a strong stand against no hits to the head, it would help," Tator said. He noted that years ago, Cherry added his voice to a move to reduce serious neck injuries in hockey by stiffening rules about hitting from behind.
Tator needs to have his brain examined.
Here's Cherry on head shots in an interview with the National Post last month:
NP Do today's players' respect one another?
DC It is fear and respect. Fear should be in there, because they don't fear one another. There is no way a guy like Tuomo Ruutu(notes) would be running guys from behind if Bob Probert was on the ice. I say it a 100 times: Gretzky had a credit card in Edmonton because of Dave Semenko and Marty McSorley. You touched Gretzky you were a dead man. Then they put the instigator rule in. There is no way guys would be running guys from behind if they knew they had to pay the price. It's not no respect, the players don't have any fear that they will have to pay the price."
NP What about headshots?
DC There are some cheap shots, but if you look at some of the guys that are hitting guys to the head, before, they wouldn't even think of it. Take Mike Richards(notes), if he knew Probert was sitting on the bench and McSorley was sitting on the bench and something was going to happen, he wouldn't have hit [Florida's David Booth(notes)] like that in the first place. Players do not have any fear. That's the problem. They call them hits to the head, but I call them cheap shots.
Cherry's arguing here what he's always argued: That there's a lack of respect in today's game, and that changes in rules and hockey culture have contributed to it. For all the "rock'em, sock'em" bluster, that's his basic message and one in direct contrast with the "preaching" Tator described.
Obviously, evoking Cherry's name gives Tator's message and his foundation Think First, whose name you now know, instant publicity. But if he's serious about Cherry becoming a voice against head injuries, it's a foolhardy request.
First, because Cherry's been more responsible than he's given credit on cheap shots. He doesn't need to start peppering that message with concussion stats to get it across.
Second, because even if you want to believe Cherry promotes unchecked violence in hockey (like our new friend Charlie Tator), there are as many people who see Cherry as a clownish symbol of arcane hockey violence than defend him as an icon. Which is to say that the crazy old man in the loud suits bellowing about "old time hockey" is the antithesis of where the game is going for many younger generations; that point of contrast may have more impact that Cherry rallying to the concussion cause.
In either case: Don't go changing, Don Cherry.