August 21, 2012

Sour on Grapes: Bruins GM's dad rips Cherry in new book

By Stan Fischler

It’s virtually unprecedented for the father of an active NHL general manager to write a stinging analysis about hockey’s most controversial figure. But, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli’s dad, Frank, was super motivated to get something off his chest. 

Don Cherry won 231 games during his five seasons as the Bruins head coach from 1974-79. (Getty Images)

His book, Sour Grapes and Sweet Success, can be described in several ways: 1. An analysis of two of hockey’s most prominent figures since World War II, Don Cherry and Sam Pollock. 2. Setting a warped record straight. 3. An unadulterated hatchet job on Don Cherry.

You be the judge.

What’s abundantly clear is that author Chiarelli verbally skewers hockey’s king of the airwaves from every possible angle.      

We don’t necessarily agree with Frank’s frontal assault but it certainly is novel. The Fischler Report's Michael Rappaport interviewed the senior Chiarelli about the book and Frank addressed these issues:

REASONS FOR WRITING THE BOOK

A lot of it had to do with my anger at Cherry. As Canadians, we’ve had to live with him for 25 years on Hockey Night in Canada. He was very abrasive, abusive, and very opinionated, and there was never any other opinion offered by the CBC. I thought maybe there should be another voice.

It also had to do with Sam Pollock, who was by far the best general manager that the NHL has ever seen. Pollock was never given credit for many of his accomplishments. It was he who won 16 Stanley Cups.

Although the main focus of the interview was about Cherry, Chiarelli wanted a larger portion of the book to be mentioned in the piece, particularly the portion of the book devoted to Sam Pollock.

AMOUNT OF TIME NEEDED TO WRITE THE BOOK

It took me about two and a half to three years. I have a huge memory for hockey data.

Hockeydb.com was my bible for facts. I spent hours on that website looking up stats. I used comparable charts for evaluating coaches and general managers, as well as how coaches use players in critical situations.

HOW DISDAIN FOR CHERRY STARTED AND EVOLVED

My anger with Don was sustained over a period of time. He’s incredibly controversial, and CBC gave him “carte blanche” to say and do whatever he pleased.

There were fighters in the game who committed suicide (Wade Belak and Rick Rypien) and when other fighters spoke out about the dangers of fighting, Cherry ranted for a full seven minutes on one of his broadcasts on these guys, who he referred to as ‘goons and hypocrites.’

That’s been his history throughout his tenure with CBC. He has a following, but I think he has a much larger following of people who are unhappy with him, and obviously I’m one of those guys.

Chiarelli reiterated to me that the majority of Canadian hockey fans have the same feelings about Cherry that he expresses in the book and in the interview.

RELATIONSHIP WITH CHERRY

I’ve never met him. In fact, when the Bruins were on their Stanley Cup run (in 2011), three of my grandchildren were at a game in Boston, and two of them ran up to meet Cherry.

They were chatting with him, and I thought to myself, “If Cherry only knew who their grandfather was.”

FRANK’S INTENTIONS

I’m not looking to get Cherry fired. He is on his last legs at CBC anyway, as he’s almost 80 years old. I just want people to see the other side of the story. Cherry’s opinions are so narrow and “kindergartenish.”

He sells well; he’s flamboyant, he’s controversial. â€‹That’s kept him in that job, but he has very questionable hockey knowledge.    

IF NOT CHERRY, THEN WHO?

There are a number of people. Bob McKenzie and Nick Kypreos are very knowledgeable hockey guys, and they bring nuances to the game that Cherry could never fathom.  

If those people were in a position to hire a person to play the role that Cherry plays, there is no way that they would have hired Cherry. He’s not a legitimate guy.

PETER CHIARELLI’S REACTION TO THE BOOK

Before the book was published, I was more caustic about Cherry than what is in there, and Peter didn’t like that so I took it out.

Most of the objections he had were with Cherry, and he thought I should lighten it. However, he liked the section on Sam Pollock.

This article originally appeared in The Fischler Report. Follow Stan Fischler on Twitter at @StanFischler.