They say that the only things in life that are certain are death and taxes-- I tend to agree. Death becomes us all at some point, but the impact of the loss of life is never equal in our society. There are certain individuals that transcend their everyday surroundings and have an impact on the wider society that leaves an indelible mark on people forever. I feel that Don Cherry is a perfect example of this.
Death is a morbid subject to talk about and it is especially so in this instance considering "Grapes" is still alive as I write this. Nonetheless, I have been thinking about death a lot lately, which I suppose makes me deviant or, at the very least, emo.
I should probably preface this with the factoid that I am neither suicidal nor an axe murderer, but rather obsessed with my own mortality, which is becoming a common theme in this article and is a fairly bizarre development in its own right.
Let me explain: I am at a point in my life where my future is a blank page and the decisions I make now about a profession, a girl and my education will likely dictate where I end up 10, 15, 20 years down the road. I'm sort of like Robert Frost's wet dream: two paths diverge in a wood and I'm leaning toward taking the path less taken. One thing that governs me in all of this is the overly idealistic and slightly grandiose idea that I would like my life to mean something when it is all said and done. Perhaps do something that adds to the world or at least my immediate community. You probably share the same feeling, and even if you do not I'm sure you can understand the sentiment.
This desire to do something impactful, but without the foggiest idea of what that might be, led me to thinking about other people in Canada that have had a far reaching impact on our society.
As is always the case, the first thing I think about when analyzing anything is sport, which in turn led me to thinking about the institution that is Don Cherry.
I should probably put one of my biases on the table right from the get go: I truly believe hockey is what tethers this country together from Victoria to Halifax.
I don't think the average Canadian identifies with our bicameral legislature or Alex Trebek in the same way that Joe or Jill Canadian identifies with a sheet of ice, a stick and a puck.
Hockey is religion in most respects in Canada and Don Cherry is the archbishop of the diocese.
The man bleeds red and white and supports pretty much everything that has a Canadian connotation to it. Unfortunately, this sometimes leads him to be controversial (read: biased and insensitive) about other cultures (especially visor-wearing Europeans), but at the end of the day what he is more than anything else is a proud citizen of this country with a track record of helping create and sustain a vibrant Canadian culture.
Sure, you could label him a lot of different things, but one thing you cannot call him is unpatriotic; he supports Canada's finest soldiers who are spread across the globe but not just for the sake of rallying around the idea of Canada.
Cherry supports the individuals who do what they are asked to do and he recognizes the sacrifices made by the families and communities of those who participate in Canada's foreign policy abroad, irrespective of ideology. He is a teacher and inspiration to the everyday working stiff and to young hockey players who dream of lacing up the skates in the greatest hockey league in the world.
He embodies the Canadian spirit in many ways and when he is gone he will have left a lasting legacy to Canadian culture-- which is hockey. He too, may have chosen the path less taken, but at the end of the day his impact on Canadian society is undeniable and incredibly important.