Battle Beyond the Blades

After sharing a bountiful Thanksgiving with family and friends, Your Working Girl was walking to a working girl work-out when a high-definition vision of Don Cherry dressed like a Christmas tree skirt appeared before her like a caterwauling demon who refused to be batted away. Her heart raced.  What was this vision?  Why now? 
Because hockey is treated more like a holy sacrament than a sport in Canada and the National Hockey League can be as transparent as a monastery, Your Working Girl is has been mildly encouraged  that mental illness, suicide, addiction and depression have seen the light of day in the context of the NHL.  The death of three players over the summer, two from suicide, has hockey is doing its version of soul searching.   How can this be a bad thing for people suffering mental illness?
The pain spilling out onto the ice of this opening season is without precedent.  When Rick Rypien’s mother, Shelley Crawford, dropped the ceremonial puck for the Winnipeg Jets opener on Sunday night alongside co-owners Dave Thomson and Mark Chipman, and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, the crowd rose up in a deafening ovation, chanting Rypien’s name. 
When former Toronto Maple Leaf and Nashville Predator Wade Belak took his own life days before his appearance on Battle of the Blades, former Leaf Russ Courtnall jumped in to replace him.  On Monday night when Russ and his skating partner, Kim Navarro, performed their last duet on the show, Kim broke into tears saying she’s thought of Wade every day since his death.   
Maybe a tipping point mused Your Working Girl.
Maybe not. 
From his throne on Coaches Corner and upon whom CBC’s executives have apparently bestowed divine providence, Don Cherry, Canada’s PT Barnum of hockey, glides into this icy mist of pain with the cocky assurance of a man who has made a career of providing commentary in the language of ridicule and abuse.  Sputtering and irate, he accused three former players Stu Grimson, Chris Nilan and Jim Thomson of being “pukes”, “turncoats” and “hypocrites” for speaking out about mental health and violence in hockey.   
Appalled by the CBC’s promotion of Mr Barnum, Your Working Girl sent a stern email to Kiristine Stewart, Executive VP of English program and CBC Board Chair Hebert Lacroix telling them she found the beatification Don Cherry and his circus inexplicable.  If the CBC has determined this man is the only one who can offer hockey fans informed commentary, heaven help us.  Sure, he tells kids to keep their stick on the ice and to keep their head up but it’s advice increasingly wrapped in a blanket of anger, intolerance and vanity.   With Don Cherry, you don’t get one without the other.
Your Working Girl, mind you, is under no illusion that the CBC will listen, or even read, her missive.  The CBC is not, after all, the Toronto Blue Jays.  But there’s one thing she does want to make perfectly clear to CBC television and to her Gentle Readers.  Your Working Girl has been a loyal supporter of the network since birth.  She has spoken out when the network’s funding was in jeopardy from those nasty conservatives in Ottawa who just don’t get the moral imperative of public television. 
Well . . . phooey on that.  
The CBC can continue to broadcast as many specials as they wish featuring an ernest Linden McIntyre tsk tsking about the Catholic Church condoning abuse of children. They can continue to talk about their 75 year history in the tones of a Vatican Eucharist.  But as long as they provide a chair on national television for a man who hurls insults, screams at people with mental illness and addiction problems and ridicules anyone who disagrees with him, they are to Your Working Girl’s reckoning, an unresponsive institution that puts its own interests above those of its viewers and the people of Canada who pay for their very existence.   
Hopefully, Hockey Night in Canada sponsors will see the light of day at some point soon.  Because the network itself can’t be trusted to make the decision.  CBC television is letting Canadians down.  From coast to coast to coast. 
At the very least, the CBC could, as the fab editorial in today’s Globe and Mail Men of Dignity, not Pukes suggests:
“. . . bring these three men on to Coach’s Corner to face Mr. Cherry, and let him, and all of hockey, hear what a human being feels like after 250 bare-knuckle fights.”

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  1. Thanks Gail – I rarely watch NHL hockey any more, even more rare to attend a game – the fighting has become central to the game, unfortunately. The CBC has commendably done several National features on concussions in hockey and football but the NHL and CBC aren't willing to challenge their audiences by taking real action to end head shots and goon behaviour for fear of lost ad and seat revenue. So long as they all make lots of money off gladiators on skates, it won't change.

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