I read Don Cherry’s Hockey Stories and Stuff last night. I’ve been meaning to pick it up for a read for quite some time – as often as I disagree with Cherry he’s an entertaining guy, and a guy who worked for everything he has now; when I read about him as a minor league player I see a life much tougher than my own, and for that matter much tougher than the lives of almost all the players these days.

It’s a wide-ranging book, with a stream of consciousness feel, and I’ll probably be referring to it off and on in my posts here. Today I want to refer to it because Cherry said something in it that I understand to some degree, and that I think Brownlee and Gregor would agree with too (more than me, for that matter – they’ve been doing similar work longer and in more places).

Here’s the excerpt:

I was out havin’ a couple of pops with a buddy after the 2008 playoffs and he said, “The playoffs have been over for five days and you’re still gettin’ ripped in the paper for not giving Sidney Crosby credit on ‘Coach’s Corner’ and praising Gary Roberts to the moon. Does it ever get you down?

I had to admit when I first started on TV, it really did get me down. As I told you before, my first rip job was from a reporter I admired and he did a real hatchet job on me. It was a beauty. It threw me off so much I really didn’t know if I could go back on TV.

But I bit the bullet and went back and did my best. And I found the longer I was on, the more I got ripped, the thicker my hide got.

If you’re going to give it out, you’ve got to be able to take it. As Harry Truman said, “If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.”

I’ve made some pretty ugly mistakes here and on my other site, and I’ve taken a beating for it. I’ve also said some things that I still believe, but run against conventional wisdom, and I’ve taken a beating for those too. But it’s fair, because after a while I started to realize that as much as I enjoyed interacting with all the people who comment on the articles, it wasn’t so important what everyone else thought of me as a writer – I needed to be confident in myself, not constantly seeking the approval of others.

Most of Cherry’s book is about his time as a coach or a player, but he does work some Hockey Night in Canada stuff in there too, including a few references to Ron MacLean. There’s one segment near the end that I really loved:

When we walk through the airports, people will holler, “Great show, Don,” and say nothing to [Maclean]. He just laughs.

People will ask for my autograph and not his, and my picture and not his. He really sincerely thinks it’s funny.

One time, a guy wanted to take a picture of me with his wife. Ron went to step in and the guy hollered, “Get out! You’re ruining the picture!”

Ron got the biggest kick out of that. I don’t think I could handle it the way he does but he has so much confidence in himself that it doesn’t bother him.

I don’t particularly enjoy being snubbed, or viewed in a poor light. But at the end of the day, what really matters is having confidence – in not only my work but also in myself- because not only is the crowd fickle but occasionally I’m going to make mistakes.

I don’t write this sort of thing very often because this is an Oilers’ website; I’m supposed to provide my take on the subject, not become the subject myself. Still, it’s been something I’ve wanted to say for some time, and reading Cherry’s account of something similar last night struck a chord with me.

  • Hippy

    Now you've got me worried Jonathan.

    Come to think of it, more than once this year I've figured you lost the site with your latest stats post. And your choice of topics has been somewhat confounding on occassion for us readers. I've been wondering what's your plan? Do you even have one? And your fondness for the vets like Gregor and Brownlee is obvious.

    Does this post mean Bingofuel is going to have a post-season presser blog post announcing that you've been promoted to ON head of blogger procurement? Only to be followed by a Tweet from Wanye saying "Willis isn't going anywhere!"?

    Jonathan, you're a classy, intelligent guy that always gives a good read. I think I'll revoke my FJNF ways. Only thing I can suggest is that you change your sign-off pic. Good god man, you look like a 12 year old.

  • Hippy

    JW looks like we are having a love in for you here.
    Seriously though the amount of articles you write and the statiscal research involved is astounding! Keep it up.
    Now if only we can get more fluff pieces from Amber to balance things out more. 🙂

  • Hippy

    For all of the times I'm certain you have no clue what a day in the life of a working sports writer is like, and despite the times I think the conclusions you draw based on statistics have gaping holes in them, you write with more insight and common sense that a lot of people drawing nice pay cheques in the MSM do.

    I expressed that sentiment here when I first joined ON in reference to your other website, and did so before you were here. I say it again.

    Despite the moaning coming from this corner when you write something about a subject I don't give a whizz about and it knocks my latest Pulitzer Prize entry down the page, or when the other stats guys you run with start second-guessing my eyesight, I'm convinced you took a wrong turn in your pay-the-bills career path.
    You should be a writer. You are one.

  • Hippy

    Jonathan I don't write responses often but your articles are excellent.

    Do I always agree with you analysis? No, but even when I do not I come away thinking about what you have said.

    Which means you are doing your job. Keep it up.

  • Hippy

    I think you're a superstar! I was just saying the other night that the thing I love most about your articles is the way you explain things. Even someone who had no understanding of the NHL could read some of your stuff and 'get it'. I think that's what makes you different from the others. Also, your ability to take both sides into consideration and find a common ground. Perfect example was yesterday with the banter between MattN and Gregor. You were like ON's very own UN!

    I love reading your stuff on here and Copper and Blue.

    *begins the painstaking challenge of throwing JW a kickass parade*

  • Hippy

    Willis, you're one heck of a writer, dont let anyone of us anonymous whack jobs get you down. The sheer amount of written word that you contribute on your various projects is astounding. Your arguments are well thought out and supported by as much evidence as you can possibly find. Personally, I appreciate the time that you put into disagreeing with me on whatever it is we dont see eye to eye about. No matter how much I would ever disagree with you on anything I wouldnt look on you in negative light, I respect your insight and abilities too much.

    There, now I need to go wrestle a bear or pull a truck with my teeth.

  • Hippy

    @ Jonathan Willis:


    You're going to make a helluva journalist someday (you're already well on your way). I may not always agree with your assessments, but I always end up taking them into consideration. Just as you do, I admire a person who stands by their convictions, doesn't shy away from criticism, and isn't afraid to swallow their pride every now and then and admit they were wrong.

    We may not always agree, but I have tremendous respect for you and your insights. For you to take the time to do what you do (without pay, no less!) really demonstrates your passion for the game. I think everyone can agree with me that you're always more than worth our time.

    Thanks JW,