The Battle of Vimy Ridge was a defining moment in history “that really made Canada,” but Don Cherry wonders what would happen if Canada’s young people were called upon today to defend the country’s freedoms.
“You know in (the First World War) they literally gave their lives. They were so proud of Canada, it was No. 1 in their lives, even the British people who came over were Canadian,” said Cherry. “I often wonder with some of the feelings of Canadians today, where they don’t think Canada is No. 1, if they would so willingly give their lives. That’s my personal opinion. Not a very popular one, but that’s the way I feel.”
Cherry thinks his patriotism was cemented in him early growing up in Kingston during the Second World War.
Don was five years old when the Second World War began and just 11 when it ended, but, being raised in Kingston, he was around the troops coming and going and it is something that’s always stuck with him.
He remembers a conversation when he was a young teen that has stayed with him. His mom was talking with his pals’ parents about their ancestry. Some were talking about being German and others English or Irish.
“My mom told me she was Scottish,” said the well-known hockey commentator.
“My dad, Del, was sitting there reading the paper and I said, ‘So what am I dad, Scottish?’ My dad put down the paper and said, ‘You are Canadian,’” Cherry recalled. “He then said, ‘If your mother likes Scotland so much, tell your mother to go back there.’”
Don was laughing as he remembered this seminal moment from his youth.
“That’s where I got my roots,” he said.
He later found out his dad was originally from County Cork in Ireland, but “he always thought of himself as Canadian first.”
Cherry got emotional as he looked at the pictures on his wall from 100 years ago, at the Canadians in the Great War, including some his grandfather, Pte. Richard Palamountain, and his great uncle Thomas William McKenzie.
He told me just how proud he was to have these photographs and how much they had meant to his mother, who passed them down to him.
On his legendary Coach’s Corner segment on Hockey Night in Canada, Cherry honours our fallen troops and emergency services people with such reverence. His show has become a living, breathing national monument for those who have given their lives protecting us.
It’s the sacrifice and commitment to country that moves Cherry so much. He says when a person becomes Canadian, that Canada should come first in their loyalties.
“Nobody leaves their home country unless they are persecuted or they can’t make a go of it,” Cherry said. “So they are over here, everything is paid for, everything is for them and if they don’t think we are No. 1, then go back where you came from. I agree with my father.”
Cherry knows saying this is not politically correct, but he is free to say it - thanks to the people such as those who gave their lives on that ridge in France 100 years ago.