Realizing He ‘Used to Be Good,’ Don Cherry Recalibrates His Rancor

Cherry took three scraps of paper, wrote, “Used to be good,” and plastered them around the house as motivation.

“I decided to go back to the way I was,” he said. “And right now, I’m like I was 20 years ago. I’m more of a bully. I’m more aggressive. I’m better.”

Away from the camera, the man affectionately known as Grapes has softer edges and a prankster’s guile.

In October, Cherry changed the location of an interview from his house to his son’s home, just around the corner in suburban Toronto.

“Come around 9 in the morning and you’ll see me sitting on the white veranda,” Cherry said in a voice mail message.

At the appointed time, a skeleton was sitting where Cherry was supposed to be on the Halloween-themed veranda. His son, Tim, opened the door and dryly remarked that his father had been on a strict diet of late.

A few minutes later, Cherry made a less-than-grand entrance, wearing checkered track pants, a T-shirt and a windbreaker.

“It’s a funny thing,” he said. “I can go to Home Depot, and if I’m dressed like this, maybe five out of 10 people will recognize me. But if I put on a shirt and tie, you can’t believe it. Everybody wants a picture.”

Cherry said his fashion sense came from his father, Delmar, a master electrician and a “dandy who was the sharpest dresser of all time,” and his mother, Maude, who was a tailor at Royal Military College.

Cherry’s leap to TV came in 1980 after he wore out his welcome as coach in Boston and Colorado. Mellanby hired Cherry as a guest analyst in the Stanley Cup finals, even though he knew how volatile Cherry could be.

In 1978, when Cherry was coaching the Bruins in the finals against Montreal, Boston’s Stan Jonathan broke Pierre Bouchard’s nose in a flurry of punches, but the replay was not shown on TV.

Cherry believed that fighting was a big part of the game and should be showcased.

During the next game in Montreal, one of Boston’s…

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