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Cherry Pie: Don Cherry Hits the Nail on the Head

June 5, 2007, 8:14 AM ET [ Comments]

Last night, Don Cherry visted NBC studios and made a very important point on the state of hockey in the US

B.D. Gallof

Author's note: The following is either satire, hockey prognostication or just errant observations...anything factual or actually insightful is unintended

Back a few weeks ago, when you all were assaulted with my little satire about how the new NHL under Gary Bettman has drained much of what audiences in America really want. Hockey fighting. Battles. Blood. Guts. Glory. That when the audiences of America are all tuning into Ultimate Fighting and other violence like 24 and The View, that a diluted hockey product is NOT whats going to fly or bring back US hockey fans.

Now, this wasn't anything mindblowing, mind you. I am certainly not tooting my own horn...well, much. But it was very refreshing when none other than Don Cherry say the exact same thing on NBC last night, only a couple of weeks later. Obviously I am not alone...and obvious some better hockey minds than yours truly are also on this very bead.

While Gary Bettman has press conferences with doublespeak and spins on why hockey is losing the battle in the US of A...I have been scratching my head to why hasn't the NHL at least marketed itself more strongly in the meaty demographic of 18-35 males. As I watch the UFC brand itself with deals with ESPN, VS, Spike TV and other places, I simply look at Gary's dull eyes and realize that the man in charge is just not fit for the job.

Has anyone seen who runs the UFC? It is a foul-mouthed bald man named Dana White who has a hair-trigger temper and brass balls. What makes him successful is he knows what audiences want, how to protect the sport and please the many people who were once against it. Dana is not even a college grad. He just knows the sport and the audience. No allusions or illusions on who and what they are.

Gary Bettman is a Cornell graduate, a labor relations lawyer, and helped create the soft-cap system in the NBA that is still there today creating spoiled brats. The whole reason that the hockey commissioner position was created in the first place was because hockey owners saw the NBA's success and wanted to emulate that. So when David Stern suggested Bettman, it was a no-brainer for NHL owners.

And there, my friends, is the truth of the matter. For all of the blame Bettman takes, it is really the NHL owners wanting to taste a piece of the pie that really created this slippery slope of labor issues, product changes and the fact that hockey has been fading in the American market. You can't just take another sport that is very different from Basketball, and try to neuter it to appeal to the same people. That is the numero uno mistake that was made.

Hockey is a beautiful, rough, and powerful game. It's repackaging for masses that simply have zero interest in it has been a supreme waste of time that has diluted the product. It's time that the NHL gets back to basics and stop trying to be something it isn't. Hockey will never be the NBA. Hockey is hockey. Perhaps a change at the top could bring about a much needed refocusing.

So last night, the NHL was served a bit of Cherry pie, shown very simply and eloquently by a dapper, tan and spirited man of where they went wrong. Was anyone listening? Or were they choking mid-chew? Or too busy watching the NBA games?
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