I really wanted to make the title for this just "Dallas Eakins calls out Don Cherry." That’s a catchier, more eye-grabbing title. While Eakins does issue somewhat of a challenge to Grapes, he really could not have been more polite and eloquent in doing so.
Due to recent comments the Toronto Marlies head coach made about Maple Leafs prospect Nazem Kadri (which you can read about on mapleleafsnation.com), Don Cherry decided to fire back at the Toronto Maple Leafs organization with a Twitter rant criticizing the team’s handling of Kadri (which you can also read about on mapleleafsnation.com).
Inevitably of course, Eakins had to respond. Read on to watch the video (only 2:10 in length). After that, I want to go through the things Eakins said after the jump. Eakins’ words bolded and italicized.
The Marlies’ media game
"There’s a lot of people that I’ve seen come through our organization, or you’ll talk to players and they’ll say, ‘Oh I don’t read the media.’ Well, I try to do my best, some days I don’t have time to get to it right off in the morning, but I think it’s important to read everything that’s been printed about your team because that can affect their confidence level sometimes, and so, I did see it."
It’s really refreshing to hear someone on a professional sports team, especially a coach, not only admit to reading or hearing the things said about their team, but actually including it into their strategy. I’ve spoken to enough Marlies in the past that I can say Dallas Eakins is a very well-liked coach in the Marlies dressing room. Has that changed? Maybe, but I doubt it. A big part of that is how he relates to his players. Not only does Eakins know what his players are going through because he played in both the NHL and AHL, but he’s also taking the time and care to actually read what’s being said about his players to figure out how they might feel.
So many players, coaches, and GMs tell people that they don’t read what’s written about them, and most of the time it simply isn’t true. One time a draft eligible player told me he "thought" he was ranked around a certain number (I won’t say what number). Turns out he was ranked that exact number. One time prior to an interview with another junior player, he actually asked for the Central Scouting draft rankings I had in my hand and then read through it for about 10-15 minutes. I know players who have made complaints about blogs, players who Twitter search themselves – hell, a bunch of players have actually told me they watch my videos, which A) Blows my mind B) Means they hear me trash the Leafs whenever they lay an egg and C) Means if they watch my dumb face then they probably read other blogs, too.
My point is this: Eakins doesn’t blame the media. He uses the media to his advantage. If only Ron Wilson was able to use this method.
Dallas likes his Grapes
"I’m a massive fan of Don Cherry. When we’re playing a night game, and Hockey Night in Canada’s on, I make sure I beg my wife ‘Please tape that game!’ And it’s not because I want to watch the game. I want to watch Coach’s Corner, and I want to watch The Hotstove. And I always want to see what Don’s going to say, just like the rest of the nation. And the one thing is for sure: Don is a excellent entertainer. He is. He is great at it. So, his comments yesterday, I can shake my head at them. I know what the truth is. I know what I believe in, and, listen, he’s a strong-willed guy. I’m sure he believes in everything that he had somebody type for him."
OK, so Eakins maybe throws a tiny jab at the end about Cherry’s Twitter. I’m sure most people who follow Don Cherry on Twitter would agree that even if somebody is typing for him (Kathy Broderick), the words in his tweets have to be his own. Nobody other than Don Cherry is coming up with the sentence "Imagine headlines saying he’s chubby and fatso."
Eakins touches on something, in a very classy way, that is very true: Whether you love Don Cherry or you hate him, people watch him, and he’s damn fine at what he does.
As an intern with Leafs TV I got the great opportunity to sit up in the ACC press box during a Saturday night game. We’re talking well over 100 people crammed into a relatively small area. There is a common area in the press area where members of the media can get stat sheets and coffee. The area also has several televisions in it. I’m not kidding when I say pretty much everyone got up during first intermission, stood in that common area, and watched Coach’s Corner. Some laughed with Ron and Don, while other laughed at them. Some shook their head, while others nodded in approval. But I’ll never forget everybody standing there, watching and listening. Whether he’s right or wrong, people listen.
…does Grapes like his Dallas?
"I’m a massive fan. I would love for Don to come down, and I invite Don to come down here, and sit in my office, and hey, let’s talk about where we’re at with our players. What do you think? Do you have some different ideas? And like I said, earlier, I’m open to anybody’s thoughts, and I know our players would love it if Don Cherry would come down. He’s a huge Toronto Marlboros supporter of minor hockey. I’ve never ever seen him at one of our games. I’ve never ever seen him at a practice, and he’s never ever come in and knocked on my door. So I invite Don to come on down. You’re more than welcome at any time. You’ve got a lot of fans here, and we’d be honoured to have him."
In Don Cherry’s defence, if he hasn’t been going to Marlies games it’s because nobody goes to Marlies games.
OK I’m kidding. That was mean. The actual truth is that last season the Marlies’ attendance saw some nice improvement, and the team on the ice enjoyed quite a successful season as well, making it all the way to the Calder Cup Final. In fact, the Marlies had an open practice this past week and many fans attended to watch the team not only practice, but also unveil their new third jerseys.
Whether Cherry has been going to Marlies games or not, and I don’t know if he has or hasn’t been very much, I think a meeting between one AHL coach who went on to become an NHL coach and a younger AHL coach who could definitely make the jump to NHL coaching in the not-so-distant future would be pretty interesting. I would love to be a fly on the wall for it and hear what they say to each other, or even just briefly hear what they had to say after.
Regardless of who you’re siding with on this issue, you have to marvel at one thing: It’s early October, there’s a lockout, and we’re still talking about MLSE, and we’re still talking about Don Cherry. Impressive how they always seem to do that.