Newsflash! Old man with bizarre fashion sense is a xenophobe! Film at 11! (Bruce Bennett, Getty Images)

It has long ceased being surprising to hear Don Cherry praise Canadians at the expense of other nationalities. Pointing out that Cherry is jingoist is like saying that Patrick Kane likes to party. Silly Patrick: he should know that Rod is the only one who parties.

Just prior to game one, Cherry shouted his prediction for the series over top of the spectacularly loud introduction in the arena. My theory is that CBC knew he was going to be shouting anyway, so timed his segment for when his shouting wouldn’t seem out of place. Cherry wasted no time getting to the good stuff:

If you’re smart, you’re going to pick New Jersey for this thing – best goalie, higher in the standings, home-ice advantage – but I’m going to go with LA. I picked them at the start of the playoffs. They’re big, they’re mean, they might have a little rust, 7 days off, but y’know why I’m picking them? 23 North Americans, 14 Canadians, 8 guys from Ontario – heart and character, that’s why they’re going to win.

The most charitable interpretation would be that “heart and character” is a separate thought from him talking about North Americans, Canadians, and Ontarians. I’m not feeling charitable. Cherry was pretty clearly suggesting, as he has so many times in the past, that Europeans lack heart and character. That they don’t have what it takes to win in the playoffs.

Anyone hoping that this type of attitude would die when Nicklas Lidstrom captained the Detroit Red Wings to the Stanley Cup were sadly mistaken. Even as Lidstrom announces his retirement, Cherry is spouting the same tired horse twaddle. As Ellen Etchingham so elegantly pointed out, Anze Kopitar doesn’t even get to the NHL without heart and character and, after last night’s gamewinning overtime goal, he’s now tied with Dustin Brown for the team lead in scoring.

Really, I should have stopped paying attention when he suggested that the Devils would be the smart choice to win the Stanley Cup because they have the “best goalie.” Anyone suggesting that Martin Brodeur has been better in these playoffs than Jonathan Quick might actually be crazy. Seek help. But alas, I kept listening.

Really, all the credit for this goal should go to the two good ol' Ontario boys who got the assists. (Bruce Bennett, Getty Images)

The Kings do indeed have 23 North Americans on their active roster, though just 18 of those have actually seen any ice time in the postseason. Of the 14 Canadians Cherry mentioned, 12 have actually played for the Kings in the playoffs. And that 8th player from Ontario is Kevin Westgarth, who played 25 regular season games for the Kings, but none yet in the playoffs. But his very presence on the roster as a “good ol’ Ontario boy” will definitely win the Cup for the Kings.

His defence for saying all this during the first Coach’s Corner of the evening is that Americans promote themselves all the time, apparently. He showed an article titled “Captains America,” which pointed out the fact that for the first time in NHL history, both the captains in a Stanley Cup Final were Americans. Apparently Cherry thinks this means the Americans are getting a bit too uppity and fought his own miniature War of 1812 by promoting the poor, underrated Canadians.

Canadians may be quiet about a lot of things, but hockey isn’t one of them. That defence doesn’t wash.

The thing is, someone can be xenophobic without being completely wrong. It’s completely unreasonable to argue that North Americans have more heart and character than Europeans, but it might be true that teams with a higher than average percentage of North Americans are more successful in the playoffs. There could be rational reasons for that: the rules and style of the NHL might favour players who were trained in that style in North America or perhaps players who grew up watching the NHL might have a stronger desire to win the Stanley Cup and give that extra 10% above 100 when necessary. But that’s speculation and there’s really no proof that either of those things are true.

But, just on the off-chance that Cherry has stumbled into the secret ingredient for winning Stanley Cups, let’s look at a few statistics.

There were 894 people who played at least one NHL game this season. Of those, 197 were from Ontario, 480 were Canadian, and 219 were American. That’s a grand total of 699 North Americans, making up 78.18% of the players in the NHL. Transposed onto the 25-man active roster that most teams carry, that would make for 19-and-a-half North Americans on the average team. We’ll assume the half is a dual-citizen.

So the Kings, with their 23 North Americans, are above average, while the Devils, who have just 14 North Americans, are below average. So what difference does that make? We’ll look at the Stanley Cup Finals since the lockout and see whether having more North Americans correlates with winning.

In 2011, the Canucks actually had more North Americans play in the playoffs than the Bruins, with 20 to the Bruins’ 17. The Bruins, however, had a slightly higher concentration, since they had fewer injuries and skated fewer players during the playoffs. 77.27% of their roster was from North America, compared to 74.07% of the Canucks’ roster. That must be why it went to 7 games.

In 2010, the Blackhawks and Flyers had equal numbers of Ontarians and Canadians, while the Flyers had an extra American. Unfortunately, this wasn’t enough to tilt the series in their favour, despite their starting goaltender, Michael Leighton, being from Petrolia, Ontario.

The 2009 Final fits the model, as the Penguins, with their 17 North Americans, defeated the Red Wings, who had just 12. Unfortunately, in 2008 the reverse was true, as the two teams had the same number of North Americans each, but the Red Wings came out victorious. A grand total of 5 players from Ontario participated in the two series.

Sanity prevailed in 2007, however, as the Ducks loaded up on Canadians, with a whopping 19 (including 9 from Ontario) and added 6 Americans to the mix. The poor Senators, who had just 13 Canadians and 2 Americans, didn’t stand a chance.

That doesn’t explain 2006, however, when the Oilers had 8 players from Ontario, a total of 15 Canadians, and 4 Americans, and still managed to lose to the Hurricanes, who had only 5 players from Ontario, 11 Canadians, but did have 6 Americans. A 19-to-17 edge in North Americans just couldn’t push the Oilers past the Hurricanes to the Cup.

So, what have we learned? Almost every team in the NHL has a lot of North Americans, because the NHL has a lot of North Americans. Because of this, a lot of the teams that face each other in the Final are pretty close in having a similar amount of North Americans in the lineup. Of the last 6 Cup winners, however, 4 of them had fewer North Americans than their opponents.

Hey, what do you know: Cherry’s half-baked analysis of the Stanley Cup Final is based on no evidence whatsoever. The Kings may still win the Cup this year, but it will be because they’re good at hockey, not because they have more heart and character from being born in North America.

Comments (40)

  1. Is it really necessary to break down that Don Cherry is wrong? He’s long past relevant.

    • The more the media keeps publishing things like this the more Don Cherry wins. Ignore him like you would annoying telemarketers like the majority of the rest of us in Canada.

      Don the 70′s called. You left your coach of the year trophy there.

      • I don’t agree. The more you let things like xenophobia and racism go – the more they become a fabric of the conversation about hockey, society etc. By calling him out make it very clear to every one that the guy is uninformed in the worst way – the way that abuses others who disagree even though all facts indicate they are right. I agree that many of us can see how idiotic the things he says are – but he’s just about the ONLY guy in hockey who has a pulpit to spew his own opinions however unfounded they are. Its simply lazy not to show how ignorant of reality he is. The analysis in the piece above clearly shows that Cherry has no idea what he’s talking about.

    • I like what Cherry has to say here. He’s rooting for his team. However, his bragging rights won’t last forever, because more and more Americans and Europeans are playing the Canadian style of hockey.

  2. It is necessary because the “Canadians have heart and Euros don’t” narrative lives on. And so what if Anze Kopitar’s goal wins game one – in the end everyone will be talking about the Canadians on the roster who have the heart of champions.

    We don’t need to slag Europeans to feel good about ourselves in hockey. We’re awesome. Sometimes we’re the best. But Don Cherry (and SO many others like him) need to constantly puff our national chests because their simple minds can’t handle nuance, difference, and frankly – sportsmanship.

    • I agree that cherry gets carried away with the NA, CAN ONT player thing vs. the Euro players. However, I believe that Cherry has also praised the Euros who play the more physical style of play similar to the NA style. I do not believe that he is colouring every Euro with the same brush because many times he has praised a number of Euro players for their heart and sole and style of play. What I think the problem is today is many kids look up to players not because they are Canadian but because they are stars. However, many Euro star players seem to disappear at Playoff time or they do not show up every game to play during the regular season.. Detroit had some great Euro stars that came to play every game and Lidstrom and Zetterberg are two prime examples. That is why Detroit won the cup they had no slackers. Then there are players like the Sedans and Kovalev who are so talented but never seem to put it on the line when it is important. Maybe it has nothing to do with NA vs. Euro, but the best Euros who play in the NHL and carry their teams all year need to prove it come playoff time. I could be wrong but it just seems that there are more star Euro players who under perform come playoff time percentage wise as opposed to NA players. I believe that since the 1970′s this has gradually changed and there are fewer players like this today from Euro than there were back then. We have our soft canadian players too, but I would suggest to you that most of these guys never reach superstardom. to me that is the difference. I like a lot of the Euro players and many of then I would have on my team, Just look at this years junior draft there are some top Russian/Euro players in the top 10 however, many scouts are also talking about certain Euro players that may be a little lazy and it may be a mistake drafting them too high? If the scouts are saying it how can we has hockey fans not believe it too. That is my opinion for what it is worth.

  3. In the past Cherry’s borderline or outright racist comments could be defended by the style of play argument, NA players grow up playing NA style hockey on NA sized ice. With the growing number of European players coming to the CHL for major junior this argument has gone away. European players are some of the best in the league. That doesn’t take anything away from good old Ontario boys, they’re still pretty good too.

    Cherry needs to either get back to commenting on quality of play, something he hasn’t done well in a long time, or find another job. Luckily with his never ending railing against the league and the CBC’s shrinking budget we might finally see the end of him when the NHL moves completely to TSN.

  4. Watching Nick Lidstrom’s retirement press conference just makes Cherry’s xenophobic rantings even more absurd. Thanks for calling him out. The guy is loopy, but he has a huge audience, and there are times when somebody needs to stand up and say “this is stupid.”

  5. I’m more worried that Cherry picked the Kings. Not that I still won’t be overjoyed if they win, but knowing that somewhere Cherry will be telling someone “see? I told ya so” makes it worse.

    God help us if whomever gets the HNIC rights keeps him on-board with the new contract.

  6. Get em Don!! Sissy Euros…everyone knows Canadians are the best hockey players

  7. Hate on Cherry all you want, the man is always right though.

    • If Don Cherry’s always right, then Greece is the strongest economy in the world, Whitehorse isn’t cold in winter and the Leafs make the playoffs.

  8. The author of this article needs to realize that the first time EVER a european captained team won the cup was lidstrok in 08. Hockey players are paid for the season, not the playoffs, when it comes down it the european players dont give it their all in the playoffs. Example, daniel and henrik sedin or any european captain other than chara or lidstrom

  9. He’s blunt and often downright rude – there is no doubt. But, he is an old-school Canadian who is watching the cultural identity of his country slowly die (I dare anyone to try and compare the hockey atmosphere in Canada in 1972 to present-day) and says things like this to ease his own mind. North America IS the hockey market of the world. Yes, Russia and Sweden produce great players and win gold medals, but could they field 3 or 4 contending teams every Olympics? No. Most of those players are developed in North America. Don Cherry has the social awareness of a mule, but he is what he is: a patriot who appeals to the audience of old-fashioned Canadians and still at 80ish years of age is one of the most passionate hockey fans in existence.

  10. Of all the things I have heard that have made me scratch my head during telecasts of NHL games lately, Don Cherry ranks as one of the least noteworthy or ridiculous.
    Can you blame the guy for picking who HE feels is going to win based on HIS opinion of what makes up a succesful playoff team?
    As usual, Canadians are so busy trying to sound 110% politically correct, instead of being 110% patriotic like other nations.
    Let us continue to sha

  11. How many cups did dandy Don win? I’m sure he had lots of North Americans playing for him.

    Methinks a North American coach got a too many men penalty to cost them the game. Good ole Ontario boy (from Kingston!!!) cost them the Cup.

  12. Cherry’s right, North American players are superior, and you could have stopped after calculating the composition of the league.

    All the historical fact checking in the world won’t make 22% greater than 78%.

    • Has it occurred to you that maybe the reason why there are more NA players in the NHL is because the population of these countries is vastly superior to the European ones? Christ, You’re so dense light bends around you.

      • Europe’s population – 731 million.

        North America’s – 350 million.

        Yeah, I’m the dense one.

        • The only European countries with any notable hockey presence are Russia, Sweden, Finland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and maybe Switzerland. That leaves out highly populated Germany, France, United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Poland, etc. Not to mention that hockey is a second tier sport in most, if not all, European countries.

          Roses are red
          Violets are blue
          Cherry’s wrong
          and so are you

    • The vast majority of the North Americans in the NHL are grinders, checkers, and fourth-liners. The European and Russian players that would fill that role don’t bother coming over to North America to play in the NHL. They make as much, or more, money playing in the KHL or SEL and get to stay closer to home.

      There’s also the issue of population, as Phil brought up, but it’s not just population: it’s population of hockey players.

      • Yes, those terrible wastes-of-skates “grinders, checkers, and 4th liners”…the exact type of player teams covet in the playoffs, are predominantly North American players. Isn’t that Cherry’s point?

        Oh, but Europeans and Russians could have those spots, they just choose not to. You’re straying from your statistics-based argument into speculating that such players choose not to challenge themselves in the best league in the world. Wait, you’re making Cherry’s point again, questioning European heart and determination.

        Population: there is about 0.5 million registered players in each of Canada, the USA, and Europe. Why are the respective %’s of NHL players (using your numbers) 54, 24, and 22, instead of an equal 1/3 for each?

        • Wow, you completely missed my point. I’m actually impressed.

          There are more North Americans playing those fringe roles in the NHL because it’s the local league, not because North Americans have more heart.

          • I didn’t miss your point, it’s just that it’s wrong.

            How many players do you want to dismiss as “fringe”? You could knock 25% of the 894 (i.e. 5 out of every 20 roster spots, representing every 4th line forward and 3rd pair d-man in the league) off the North American total and you’ve still got a 70:30 discrepancy to explain.

            You could even go with a ridiculous argument that 3rd line NHLers and 2nd pair d-men aren’t elite, assume they’re all North American, and eliminate them too. It’s still a clear majority at 56:44.

            Oh, but I’m missing your point – that the stack of Europeans that could, but choose not to, claim those “fringe” roles prefer their local leagues, where they can make the same, or more, money.

            Wait, the NHL has a league MINIMUM that is higher than most (all?) European leagues’ AVERAGE salary. If they’re making more at home it’s by starring in a league there, compared to a “fringe” role in the NHL. That sounds an awful lot like an admission that the NHL’s talent level is higher.

            And, obviously, that’s the case. Players that couldn’t cut it in the NHL regularly dominate in European leagues. Why can’t the European “grinders and checkers” shut them down the way their North American counterparts could?

            North America produces elite hockey players in greater volume than Europe. Cherry’s ridiculous extensions of that point don’t invalidate it.

  13. And, of course, Don Cherry might be a homer, but he’s also right: the Kings are going to win because they DO have more heart and character – xenophobia accusations aside, the first game showed complete dominance by the Kings in those areas, particularly on defense. I think I’ll listen to him rather than some stats guy who’s never played a real hockey game in his life. Sorry, but your creds are nowhere close to his. Take him on at your peril.

    • The only stats I talked about were the ones Cherry talked about: the number of Ontarians, Canadians, and North Americans on the roster.

      If Cherry is right, that the Kings have more heart and character, it’s not because of the number of players from North America.

      “Take him on at your peril”? Seriously?

  14. Cherry’s problem is he played hockey or tried to, before helmits were manditory LOL

  15. gotta love a shout out to Petrolia ON!

  16. Do we seriously a version of the ‘You can play’ project for non-North American hockey players? I simply can’t imagine why any player would be concerned with where a teammate is from.

  17. Cherry’s an idiot, xenophobic, and wrong, but I also wonder if language isn’t really at the heart of this. I mean, Cherry never seems to talk about good old Canadian boys who grew up Laval or Trois-Rivieres the way he would about a player from Kitchener or Hamilton. And haven’t francophone players been saddled with the same stereotypes (mercurial, soft, etc) as Europeans in the past? You don’t hear so much anti-francophone stuff anymore, but, the Sedins excepted, you also don’t hear nearly so much about soft Swedes as you used to. Funnily enough, they tend to speak English better than their European counterparts; for example, you can’t even tell that Landeskog is non-native. Instead, the descriptions of soft or mercurial or passionless get heaped on the Eastern European players, who have less exposure to English instruction prior to coming here, can’t express themselves as well, and unsurprisingly people start to wonder what, if anything, makes them tick.

  18. If you geniuses who are putting down a hockey icon like Don Cherry would just read your ignorant comments that would be exciting. Don Cherry happens to know about hockey and I would love to see any of you try to debate hockey with him. It would be great for my personal entertainment when he dazzles you with his knowledge and leaves you babbling in his dust.

    He may be an old man but that old man knows hockey and he is a smart old man.

    I don’t mind Grapes speaking up for Canada and being an all around Canadian man. He is a loyal to Canada, Canadians and to Hockey.

    I just love the fact that Grapes angers all of you that you can’t stop talking about him while making yourselves look like jackasses.

    Don Cherry is absolutely right. Canadian players have more heart playing hockey, it is tradition, cultural, a religion in Canada.

    As hard as players from other origins try they don’t have that cultural of hockey in them as Canadians.

    To Americans hockey is a business before a sport, to Canadians hockey is a sport before a business.

    There are good European players and extremely lazy European players. Some of the European players have a few good years and its over. If you geniuses who are putting down a hockey icon like Don Cherry would just read your ignorant comments that would be exciting. Don Cherry happens to know about hockey and I would love to see any of you try to debate hockey with him. It would be great for my personal entertainment when he dazzles you with his knowledge and leaves you babbling in his knowledge.
    As far as Americans and Europeans learning to play Canadians style of hockey, they still don’t have the grit or heart that Canadians do with their game of hockey. Hockey is Canada’s game and it will forever be Canada’s game.

    Don’t you Don Cherry haters have more interesting things to do like watch baseball.

    We still love you in Canada Grapes and besides Don Cherry being Canadian, an Icon, he is Irish. We tend to stick together. Long live the great Don Cherry! Erin Go Bragh

  19. Being upset at anything Don Cherry says, is like being upset that Don RIckles called you a Hockey Puck. It’s entertainment.

  20. Don Cherry is the Canadian Glenn Beck of hockey

  21. So, who won The Cup? Who won the Conn Smythe? Euros?

  22. Why does anyone take him seriously anymore

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