Life Coached: An Interview With Don Cherry

Hockey Night in Canada icon and bestselling author Don Cherry talks Afghanistan, fashion over function and why it’s not okay to overpay for orange juice.

Life Coached: An Interview With Don CherryHow did you settle on the white pinstripe suit you wear on the cover of your new book, Straight Up and Personal? I’m sure you had a lot of options.
I like that picture because it looks like I’m ready for action and like I’m saying something personal. I wore a bright-red one on my previous book cover, so I thought we’d call this one “winter white.”

Do you consider yourself a fashion person?
I do. When I was coaching, I had a real sharp suit made here in Toronto. I wore it to a Boston game, and somebody put it in the paper that Don Cherry was looking exceptionally sharp today, so I had another one made and then another. Somebody once asked me if my shirts are uncomfortable. You better believe they are, but it’s better to look good than feel good.

You have opened up extensively about yourself in two previous books. Why add a third to the Don Cherry library?
After I went to Afghanistan in 2010 and saw all the troops there, I thought it would be great to write about them. Then I went to Sochi-it was the only Olympics I ever really enjoyed, so I wanted to write about that. By the end of my time working on the book, I was calling my editor, saying, “Martha, Martha, I’ve got one more story.”

You write that going to Afghanistan was important because you needed to walk the walk.
I was always on television saying I’m for the troops, so I thought I should go over and make my presence known. It wasn’t the walk they do, but at least I was there.

What was the biggest take-away from your trip?
What an awful country Afghanistan is. Why we were ever fighting for that land is beyond me. Also, the first thing I noticed was how fit our soldiers were. They all looked like young hockey players.

Sounds like you could make quite a team.
I’ll tell you one thing-they’d be in the Stanley Cup finals.

You recently got on Twitter to correct a report that you had once lived in an $8-million home. I get the sense that being a blue-collar guy is important to you.
That’s who I talk to-the hard-working man in the factory-and that’s who I am. It’s important to me that I don’t sound like a phony.

I loved the part in the book where you refuse to pay $1.50 for a glass of orange juice. You also slip in that Ron MacLean will happily pay twice that for his OJ.
Ron began as a radio guy and ended up running the whole station. He travels in different circles.

Speaking of Ron, the new hockey season will be different with George Stroumboulopoulos heading up Hockey Night in Canada coverage. Any thoughts?
When I coached the Bruins, I’d always tell the players, just do your job-don’t worry about anyone else’s. My job is “Coach’s Corner.” All I’m going to say is Ron is the best interviewer and host I’ve ever seen in my life.

Straight Up and Personal: The World According to Grapes comes out Nov. 4.

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