It’s June 2010—the Stanley Cup finals between the Chicago Blackhawks and Philadelphia Flyers. Ron MacLean and I have been goin’ since April 8, every other night for two months.
It’s not bad. The first two series we do out of the CBC studio in Toronto. For the semifinals and finals, we are on the road.
Our first night on the road, we’re in Philadelphia. Ron and I have a few too many pops, kind of deliberately. The playoffs remind me of when I played: you come to camp in good shape, but you all get together the first night and have a session. You’d be good all summer, and then just before camp, you ruin it.
So about ten the next morning, Ron and I are in this cab and we’re bakin’, it’s so hot. We’re in our shirts and ties because we always travel that way in the States. (People at airports think we’re detectives, as there’s usually an older cop and a young cop.) I always think my shirts look good, but they’re murder in the summer. The cab, as usual, is so small my legs are jammed up against the front seat. Why is every American cab dirty and small, with no air-conditioning and windows that don’t roll down? And, of course, I’m on the side where the sun shines through.
And the extra pops don’t help. When will we ever learn?
Folks, this is not the glamorous life everybody thinks it is. There are ticket lines at the airport. And security lines. The customs guys always seem to be ticked off about something. You get to the hotel and the rooms aren’t ready. Eventually, you unpack (I’ve got tons to unpack and Ron seems to have nothing).
So here I am, sittin’ in this hot cab, thinkin’ all these things and feelin’ sorry for myself. I look at Ron and he says, “Never mind. Just think of the twelve cold ones we’ll have on ice for after the game tonight.”
I do. Everything is right with the world.
* * *
Still in the finals. Now we’re into Chicago, and we land. We’re walking through the tunnel between O’Hare Airport and the airport hotel. As we walk along the tunnel—and we’re the only ones in it—we come to a guy with a little organ, and he’s singin’. He really sounds great.
Ron says, “Isn’t that guy a wonderful singer?” and before I can say anything, he has dropped a fiver into the guy’s hat.
I say, “You jerk. That guy’s not singing. It’s a record. That’s Sam Cooke singing. The guy is only lip-synching.”
Ron says, “You know, you’re too cynical. You should wake up to the world. There aren’t people like that. You couldn’t be more wrong.”
So about four days later, we’re on our way back. Same tunnel. Same guy. Now the guy is letting on he’s playing a violin. He sounds like Stratovarigus, or whatever his name is. I drop a fiver into his hat as a reward for being such a good con artist.
Ron gets taken every time. He never passes a guy who needs a handout, no matter what. But he definitely does get taken a lot.
For instance, we’re in Anaheim one night, and after a few pops in the bar, we’re walkin’ back to the hotel. This guy comes up to us and gives us this song and dance.
“Can you guys help me out? I’ve spent all my money on the bar, and now don’t have any money for a taxi to get home. I was wondering if you guys could help me because now I’m over the limit, and I don’t want to drive my car.”
Believe it or not, Ron bites on this one and gives the guy twenty-five bucks to get home.
I say, “Are you nuts?”
He answers, “Yes, I know. He could be lying. But what if it was true? I would never forgive myself, and I’d feel so guilty if he drove and hurt somebody.”
* * *
It’s in Philly, right between the fifth and sixth games. We go out to a bar.
Now, usually, we stay in Ron’s room at night and have a twelvepack on ice and watch TV and have a few munchies and cheese and we have a grand time. But we figured this series is going to wind up pretty soon, so the night before the sixth game, we go out to a bar for a little celebration. Believe it or not, the bartender knows all about my Bruins back when I was coachin’ them against Philly’s Broad Street Bullies. He knows everything.
I know he’s not a phony because he remembers the one game—the second game of the semifinals—that we were up 3–0 and we blew a three-goal lead, with Bobby Clarke tyin’ it up with two minutes to go. He has it all down, and he remembers how Terry O’Reilly got the winner for us in the second overtime.
Ron, who not only gives money to guys who drink too much, tips bartenders—and waitresses—like he’s paying off the national debt. This time, he tips the guy fifty bucks.
I say, “Hey, fifty bucks? What are you doing?”
He says, “Everybody’s gotta live.”
So on the way back to our hotel, we’re strollin’ along, feelin’ no pain, and we see a young guy who is really down on his luck, and he has a little dog on a piece of rope with him.
Ron says to me as we cross an intersection, “Doesn’t it break your heart to see a young fellow like that? And isn’t it wonderful how that dog loves him and sticks with him?”
So we’re halfway across the intersection by now, and I say, “Well, if you feel that way, why don’t you go back and help him out?”
I was just kiddin’. It was just a joke. He says, “I’ll do that,” and he goes back and says to the young fella. “Don’t take this the wrong way. I just want to help you out a little. I want to give you a little something to help you out, you and your dog.” And he slips him a fifty as well. What a guy! He falls for everything.From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from Don Cherry's Hockey Stories, Part 2 by Don Cherry. Copyright © 2010 by Don Cherry. Excerpted by permission of Anchor Canada, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.