Bruce Bennett, Getty Images

Pointing out that Don Cherry is embarrassingly ethnocentric is a little like saying “water is wet” or “the Leafs are not going to make the playoffs.” It’s pretty much just a given at this point. Canadian hockey fans are used to Cherry complaining about Canadian teams not having enough Canadian players. But last Saturday, Cherry went a step further, railing against Brian Burke for not having any Ontario-born players on the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Chances are you’ve seen the video, because it is the most ludicrous thing Cherry has said in recent memory (which is saying a lot) and many, many people are poking fun at Cherry’s super-extreme-ethnocentrism. One thing that people are missing, however, is that Cherry is wrong. The Leafs do have players from Ontario. It’s just that they’re not good enough at hockey to play in the NHL.

With this screed, Cherry is starting to sound like a Birther. If the Leafs did have an Ontario-born player in the lineup, I’m worried that he’d start demanding to see the birth certificate and rant that he’s a secret-French-Canadian.

One of Cherry’s sub-claims is that Burke “has all Americans. He has American College guys that play for him right now.”

I suppose the three players from Saskatchewan, five from Alberta, and one from BC, Manitoba, and Quebec just aren’t Canadian enough for Grapes. That’s a grand total of 11 Canadians currently on the Leafs active roster, including the recently called up Jay Rosehill. That means the Canadians outnumber the Americans, of which there are 7 on the active roster.

Let’s also ignore the fact that Tim Connolly, though he is American, actually played his junior hockey in Ontario for the Erie Otters of the OHL.

But let’s ignore how wrong Cherry is about that for the moment and deal with his main claim that the Leafs don’t have any players from Ontario. While they may not have any Ontario-born players on the active roster, they have 15 in the system. Certainly, some of them are young prospects still in Junior, but others are old enough to be in the NHL, but are instead playing for the Toronto Marlies in the AHL or worse, for the Reading Royals of the ECHL.

For instance, there’s Tyler Brenner, the 23-year-old right winger from Linwood, Ontario, just a couple hours outside of Toronto. This is his first full year of professional hockey, so it might be too much to expect him to be on the Leafs right now, but it’s certainly disappointing that he got sent down to the ECHL. Of course, the Leafs signed him out of the NCAA, so he’s pretty much just another American College guy, right Cherry?

Well, how about 23-year-old Richard Greenop, from Oshawa, Ontario? Burke was pretty eager to get Greenop signed to a contract back in 2009, inviting him to training camp, then signing him four days before camp started. Excited to sign a player from Ontario? That can’t be right. Wait, Greenop is unlikely to ever be more than an AHL enforcer? Still, it’s a good thing Burke got a big, strong Ontario boy inked to a contract.

How about an older player, like the 26-year-old Ryan Hamilton who is also from Oshawa. Burke traded the American-born Robbie Earl to the Minnesota Wild for the native Ontarian, which doesn’t make any sense. Burke doesn’t trade away Americans and he certainly doesn’t acquire Ontarians. While Earl is now playing in Europe, he at least played 38 games for the Wild. Hamilton has yet to suit up even once for the Leafs.

Then there’s 24-year-old Simon Gysbers from Richmond Hill, Ontario, who also played in the dreaded NCAA. Gysbers has good size, was the Marlies highest scoring defenceman last season, and is set to do so again this season with 26 points in 52 games. Darn it all, if he wasn’t from Ontario, Burke might be able to find a spot for him on the team next season.

It would be far too inconvenient for Don Cherry to bring up Nazem Kadri, who was born in London, Ontario and was Burke’s first ever draft pick as GM of the Leafs. Heck, he’s even played in 19 games for the Leafs this year, but was sent back down to the Marlies because the Leafs are – gasp – being patient with him. But it’s hard to blame Don Cherry for missing Nazem Kadri: that certainly doesn’t sound like the name of a good ol’ Ontario kid.

The Leafs even have an Ontario-born player in the organization with 197 games of NHL experience. It’s just that the player is 31 years old and his name is Mike Zigomanis. No offence meant to Zigomanis – he’s a solid AHL forward – but his Ontario blood just isn’t enough to earn him a spot with the Leafs.

It’s almost like what determines whether you make it in the NHL is your skill and not where you were born.

Ironically, Cherry’s tone-deaf, illogical rant came just one day before Brian Burke and his son, Patrick, announced their campaign against homophobia in hockey, You Can Play, with a video featuring numerous NHL players stating the simple truth: “If you can play, you can play.” It doesn’t matter what your sexual orientation is, the truism remains the same.

It also doesn’t matter what country you are from, or what province: if you can play, you can play.

Comments (32)

  1. FYI the Erie Otters are an American team in the OHL…

  2. I’m still not sure why their AHL team roster matters? Does this mean they have younger prospects that are Ontario-born? Prospects that could make the team in the next few years and help them back in to the playoffs? Because that might… ya know, prove Don right.

    “It’s almost like what determines whether you make it in the NHL is your skill and not where you were born.”

    I’m pretty sure that is what Cherry is saying… but adding that there might be a correlation between winning and Ontario-born players. I don’t know whether that’s true or not, aside from the anecdotal ranting. Someone do the math. And the other thing: do teams consciously go out and find Ontario-born players, or do they find the best players and it just so happens that a good portion are from the same area?

    And don’t try to bring the “You Can Play” thing into it. You (and the campaign) are right, your sexual orientation shouldn’t have any effect on your ability to play. But where you grow up absolutely can and does. Sexuality and the randomness of where you happen to be born are not the same thing at all.

    All of this is too silly… Cherry makes a semi-logical and fairly well-known point but shrouds it in his regular ethnocentric views that (I would hope) most Canadians are now good enough at interpreting through years and years of unfortunate exposure to the man…

  3. “But it’s hard to blame Don Cherry for missing Nazem Kadri: that certainly doesn’t sound like the name of a good ol’ Ontario kid.”

    That was our read on it as well when watching it on Saturday.

    “but adding that there might be a correlation between winning and Ontario-born players. ”

    I doubt Cherry could spell correlation if you spotted him the cs, os and rs, so that’s probably out.

    • haha, yeah he probably couldn’t … but I would hope he is aware of the concept (a stretch, I know…)

      I still don’t see how Kadri changes anything…?

      • this is what has happened when we have no ontario players we continue to play guys like tim connly, he is a big waste of time and,has no HEART done nothing ,while khadri sits out the defence with jake gardiner has cost us more games,maybe in a few years but not now.

    • Cherry actually discussed Kadri during the post-game show – and praises him.

      So once again, this article is embarrassing

  4. This article is pure rant to the point where he proves what Cherry said is right. There are no players currently playing on the Leafs roster that are from Ontario. They are everywhere else, but not on the Leafs.

  5. @boobs @theblackfeta haha both of you could not be more correct. The score messed this article up big time

  6. This is the most embarrasing article I have ever read from The Score. Like Chris says, all your doing is proving that Cherry is right! No Ontario born players are on the current “Leafs” roster. The Marlies and AHL does not count.

  7. I am not a Don Cherry fan by any means, but I 100% agree with what he said this time. My personal qualm with Burke’s decisions is that I don’t think that just because you are more familiar with certain players out of certain systems you should pursue them. Being familiar with someone doesn’t give them any more ability or drive than they already possess. In fact, it may be incentive to do less, not having to come into a situation and prove yourself. I am NOT a big Kessel fan. I don’t mind the guy, but he leaves a whole lot to be desired with his overall game. Connolly is a zombie. Frattin has done well to carve out a role for himself, but I’m still waiting to see if he is not just a 3rd line energy guy. Liles? Who is he again? Komisarek? Whatever. Crabb is a mediocre version of what Frattin might be, and Steckel is great on the draw but his skating is suspect.

    Thank god for Mike Brown; Burke’s best American decision to date.

    I guess to sum it up, my problem is not so much that we don’t have a bunch of hometown guys, but more so that the guys Burke brought in because he was so familiar with them, are not really getting me excited.

    • Frattin is Canadian. Bozak is Canadian too, both of them are those “American College Boys” as Cherry puts them.

      Connolly has a short contract and was needed at the time. Liles has been one of our best D all year.

      Burke has been here for 3 years, and in that time drafted more Ontario players than any other team in the league. Do you think we should have kept Stajan instead of getting Phaneuf just so we can say “oh great, the Leafs have an Ontario player on the team”?. And we should have passed up on a player like Kessel for the sole reason that he isn’t Canadian? If you actually think that, you are ridiculous.

      • Did you read what I said? I said I’m not a massive of Kessel’s overall game, not simply because he is an American. There have been — and still are — American players that I respect greatly. I understand Frattin is Canadian born, but again my problem is not so much with a player’s nationality, but that Burke refers to being so familiar with these players through the American program. Familiarity is not reason enough to have brought in some of these guys.

        I have always supported Burke in the fact that he is constantly trying to make this team better. Given the chance to back and draft Seguin and Hamilton and leave Kessel in Boston? Yes I would make that choice. I would keep Phaneuf, but I would lose the C, and let him focus on just being an exciting player that throws massive hits and drops bombs from the point.

  8. What about those times that Cherry said they gotta stop playing around with Kadri and leave him in the NHL so he can find his stride? You have made no point whatsoever in this article and have even insinuated that the man is racist — “But it’s hard to blame Don Cherry for missing Nazem Kadri: that certainly doesn’t sound like the name of a good ol’ Ontario kid.”

    Ethnocentrism is one thing, racism is another. Furthermore, Don Cherry brought up Ontario then went on to praise the minor hockey system in Ontario. He never mentioned anything about it being in the water or stating that you have to be born in Ontario. His argument was that the Ontario players get trained better while they’re developing, making them better, more NHL-ready players. It’s like if I was to say that Finnish high school students are smarter because their high school system is better than that of Ontario (which is true, btw). It’s not ethnocentrism, it’s pointing out the truth.

  9. Im confused is this article arguing for Don Cherry or not what part about noone on the Leafs roster was Grapes wrong about.

  10. I can’t say that I’m overly shocked at the level of inaccuracy in an article written by someone employed by The Score. I guess we can just chalk this article up to another embarrassment in an ever growing line of embarrassments at The Score.

  11. Memo to Daniel Wagner:

    1. On Cherry’s “super duper duper extreme illogical ethnocentric rant” – Being from Ontario is not an “ethnicity”

    2. You say the Leafs do have players from Ontario because they are on their farm team (huh?) and then say Zigomantis is NOT on the Leafs because he IS on the farm team. Illogical rant anyone?

    3. It isn’t crazy to make the point that you ought to feed the hand that feeds you: supporting OHL players (mostly from Ontario) supports both hockey in Ontario and the Ontario economy – and strong hockey in Ontario and a strong Ontario economy is what supports the Leafs. Cherry’s point is that Burke never feeds the hand that feeds him – a perfectly legitimate point.

    Because he says it with passion doesn’t mean he is wrong or illogical.

    • Rather than reply individually to each comment, most of whom seem to have missed the thoroughly missed the point in exactly the same way, I’ll reply to the guy who numbered his points and let the reply stand for all. Easier that way.

      1. Ethnocentrism does not require an ethnicity. It can also be applied to cultures or groups of people from a certain area. In this case, Cherry is being ethnocentric with regards to people from Ontario.

      2. My point is simple: it doesn’t matter where you are from, it matters how good you are at hockey. Burke has brought in more than a dozen players from Ontario into the organization. Some are still too young to make the team, but some of them are simply not good enough at hockey. Thus, Cherry’s point is invalid. Burke has tried to bring Ontario players onto the Leafs, but it turns out the ones that he signed aren’t good enough for the NHL. Is he the type of player Cherry wants on the Leafs? He’s from Ontario, after all. If not, then what is Cherry complaining about?

      3. This is arguably the only reasonable point that can be made on this issue, but it’s still fatally flawed. Burke is a poor GM because he isn’t putting a winning team on the ice. A winning team would serve the fanbase and the Ontario economy far better than signing players from Ontario simply because they are from Ontario.

      Cherry’s point is further clouded by the types of players he mentions: Skinner and Seguin for example. Those are the types of players that are simply not available unless you tank (and keep your draft picks). Burke won’t be able to trade for a Skinner, Seguin, Tavares, or even a Hodgson. To complain that the Leafs don’t have those players is ridiculous.

      I don’t think Burke is a good GM. I think he’s the most overrated GM in the league and I think he was a terrible choice to spearhead the Leafs’ rebuilding effort. But it’s not because he doesn’t bring in local boys. The Leafs problems have a lot more to do with the defence and goaltending than the lack of Ontario blood.

      • If it doesn’t matter where a player is from then why, every time a TO or ont. born player is available, are we subjected to the same line of thinking from media sources, fans and sometimes the team? Every time a player is a free agent or could be had in a trade and he is from here he is ALWAYS linked to the Leafs, no matter how unrealistic the situation is.
        Nash is from ontario he wants to play at home etc etc etc. Besides the fact is the most pertanent fact from Cherry’s tirade is that Burke, like the narcissistic blowhard he is, went to Cherrys bosses and whined like p**sy. Aw poor baby is the media being to hard on your shitty team? Trade deadline to stressful?

    • Burke has drafted more Ontario born players than any other team in the last 3 years. How is that not helping Ontario?

  12. Don is trying to tell all leaf fans to start demanding they put a winning team on the ice. sorry to say that yes it is time to get rid of the GM.Because when your GM starts with the excuses its time to go.And yes this is a black eye on Canadian hockey when Canada”s team TORONTO can not have a home town boy in the lineup.if you want to return to the glory days get good tough Canadian boys from all of canada.

    • The “glory days” were when there wasn’t an NHL draft, so, no, those aren’t coming back.

      Ye gods, it’s like Habs fans wondering why they don’t have all the great French players on their team anymore. It’s not like they lost exclusive territorial rights to all of Quebec OH WAIT THEY DID.

  13. I remember the “Glory Days” back when Backhand Shelf was interesting and relevant. Sad really.

  14. Albeit finally someone says something about the almighty Burke and we should scone him?! Cherry is bang on and doesn’t care about the political correctness of his statement as the message is more important then making sure everyone’s feelings aren’t hurt. Im not even a Leafs fan in fact i despise them but worse then that i pity them because with so many great fans and die hard supporters Burke is unchecked. Cherry put him in his place and he is right, you want to stand there with your bleeding heart then by all means do so but Grapes doesn’t do this for ratings folks he does it because he loves the sport with every ounce of his soul. Calling him a racist or ethnocentric is just ignorant. Go talk about your feelings somewhere else for all i care

  15. I think the author’s line of thinking is correct, though execution has obviously pissed some people off. I think that Cherry is trying to say that Burke is avoiding Ontario players because he’s an American and knows the college system. I think the author is trying to disprove that by looking at the farm system here. What about the current roster? As the author points out, Burke’s first draft pick was a native, but have a look at all of the transactions he completed – they were all done in the vein of improving the club today, as well as stocking the cupboard because he had NO ASSETS with which to acquire some of the elite level players (Ontarians in the NHL today). Who have been the Ontarians available for him to trade for? Did the Leafs have the necessary assets to complete that trade? It’s a valid point that Cherry makes that the GTA has the most hockey clubs at the junior level, and you’re all a little naive if you think Burke doesn’t know that. He’s drafted Ontarians, and he’s acquired younger ones, but give the guy some time to create something that we haven’t seen here in a long time.

  16. this article is sillier than anything grapes has ever said. Seriously, I’m embarassed having read it. Probably already been mentioned, but go find Erie on a map.

  17. It’s always sad to see an article wrote only point out someone’s stupidity, only to have that article sound like this… Way to go Daniel Wagner

  18. I thought only Charron had license to write about Cherry?

    We can’t be bringing in some no-good guy with German decent taking away writing jobs from hard-working Canadians like Cam Charron.

    We need more names we can pronounce on our hockey teams. No more Graboobski’s and Koolmans. Give me an easy to pronounce name like Brown. Those are de guys who put pucks in the net!

    I really don’t understand Cherry’s rant about Ontario-born players. Cherry has effectively marginalized the rest of the country along with his traditional alienating other countries. I suppose he’s pure in his xenophobic rant though: You can’t support Ontario-born players and then also support them cowboys from Alberta or those dopes in the Maritime provinces.

    To Cherry I ask this: who was the last Ontario-born hockey player to backstop (that means goaltender) a team to a Stanley Cup appearance. Not just winning the Cup, but playing for a cup? The answer is Ray Emery when the Sens got there. Emery and Roloson are the only goaltenders to make the Stanley Cup Finals since the lockout as starters for their teams.

    Question two: When did the last Ontario-born player to have the most amount of points in a season? This year Steven Stamkos is neck and neck with Giroux and Malkin. Stamkos’ team is going to miss the playoffs, but at least there is a good old Ontario-born guy playing there who can give them something positive to think about. And Giroux? “He’s french!” (But, Mr. Cherry, he was born in Hearst, Ontario). “Hearst is about as Ontarian as Cornwall.”
    The last Ontario-born player to have the highest point total in a season: Joe Thornton in his split season between Boston and San Jose in 2005-06. “But what about Sid the kid?” He’s not from Ontario, Grapes. “He’s Ontario-enough for me”

    What Cherry needs to do is read Ellen’s post from today about the history of hockey. It is a changing game and better to change and evolve than to stay the course and fade into irrelevance: Mayor – Don Cherry

  19. Burke only signed greenhop because he was the toughest guy coming out off the CHL that year, he could have been from Korea and it would not have mattered. and the leafs all but had seguin, but they traded that pick away for kessel. Ontario produces more hockey players than any other province or state in north america. It would be the equivalent to having the whole ocean to fish in and instead choosing a back yard pond. like within 45 min of toronto, thers probaley 40-60 thousand kids playing hockey, with a 90 min drive you have prob 5-7 OHL Teams, i mean the talent is right there for them, literally in their back yard.

    • And Burke has drafted and signed liberally from that backyard. The only issue is that those players either aren’t old enough or aren’t good enough to make the Leafs.

    • Yes, and Burke has turned over the team in four years and not one Ontario player on the team. Truly remarkable and it shows on ice.

  20. I hope this guy doesn’t work for the Score, what interview was this guy watching. Cherry brought up Kadri and said he should be in the NHL. Awful article, give someone else this job

  21. There are no Ontario players on the leafs. That’s just a fact. It is also fact that the leafs have drafted players in the O.

    This is a silly article. Really, someone should go behind the authors back to his boss and try and silence him.

    Brian Burke is the man for the job.

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