Cherry bombs and ESPN
Don Cherry, the long-time analyst on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada, is coming to ESPN's SportsCenter for the rest of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Cherry will start Friday following Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final between the Flyers and Penguins. Then for the final, Cherry will be partnered with Steve Levy and Barry Melrose on-site for pre- and post-game analysis. He also will continue his role on CBC throughout the playoffs. (By the way, Cherry is donating his ESPN fee to the Humane Society.)
Cherry on ESPN is a good and potentially bad thing. For starters, it's good to see ESPN showing more interest in the NHL, something it hasn't always done since the lockout. The bad news is American fans might not be ready for this much Cherry, whose opinions are entertaining and knowledgeable, but often can be called, well, "politically incorrect.'' He can offend, insult and outrage.
Then again, during his stint with NBC in last year's playoffs, he seemed to tone down his act a bit. It became a Catch-22. He didn't say anything that would get anybody in trouble, but he wasn't quite himself. Levy and Melrose know their hockey, but if they treat Cherry like a circus act, playing up to his reputation, it's not going to work. They need to treat him as his CBC partner, the excellent Ron MacLean, does: set him up, get out of the way and challenge him occasionally. But MacLean realizes that it's Cherry's moment, not his. If ESPN's Levy and Melrose do that, and ESPN gives Cherry some time to clear his throat, we could see the real Cherry.
That might be good and bad. But it will be worth watching.