If it was up to Bobby Orr, Don Cherry would be in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
The former star defenceman writes in his new autobiography, “Orr: My Story,” that Cherry deserves to be inducted in the builder category for his standing in the sport that goes beyond the one NHL game he played and six seasons he spent as a head coach.
“His stature within the hockey community is significant and meaningful, and his importance is as great as that of any player, past or present,” Orr writes as part of an entire chapter devoted to his former coach and longtime close friend.
Cherry coached Orr for parts of two seasons with the Boston Bruins, and the two have remained close over the years. The Hall of Famer knows it’s impossible for him to remain objective about Cherry but sincerely believes the Hockey Night in Canada personality should get his due.
“Is there anyone bigger than Don Cherry in our game today? It’s incredible what this man does,” Orr said in an interview with The Canadian Press. “People have no idea. They think Don’s this big rough, gruff guy. He’s paid to give an opinion. Like him or dislike him, when he comes on, everybody, they listen.”
Orr writes about Cherry’s visit to his grandmother’s house in Parry Sound, Ont., in which the woman in her 90s said to him: “I like you, because you’re the only one who always tells the truth.”
Beyond his eccentric wardrobe, Cherry’s charitable contributions and his work with Canadian troops also went into Orr’s argument for his Hall of Fame induction.
“You have no idea how many emails that I get from Don about send something to this person, that person,” he said. “He does a lot of work that people don’t know anything about, and he doesn’t advertise it.”
Cherry never won a Stanley Cup as a coach but did get a Jack Adams Trophy as coach of the year. As a player he won a Memorial Cup with the Barrie Flyers in 1953 and four Calder Cups in the AHL.
But more than that, the case for the Hall of Fame has to do with Cherry’s controversial yet respected voice when it comes to all things hockey. The attributes for those inducted as builders include “coaching, managerial or executive ability, where applicable, or any other significant off-ice skill or role, sportsmanship, character and their contribution to their organizations and to the game of hockey in general.”
Orr believes Cherry fits that description.
“Given his long-standing and continuing contributions to the game, both home and abroad, he is more than worthy of nomination into the Hockey Hall of Fame,” Orr writes. “And I can tell you, I will most definitely be in the audience that evening when this oversight is corrected.”