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Movie, hockey fans travel far to act as extras in Don Cherry biopic

Hockey commentator Don Cherry talks with reporters outside the Parliament buildings in Ottawa Tuesday Nov. 7, 2006.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tom Hanson

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Hockey commentator Don Cherry talks with reporters outside the Parliament buildings in Ottawa Tuesday Nov. 7, 2006. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tom Hanson

SELKIRK, Man. - Hundreds of people converged at the hockey arena in this small city north of Winnipeg Sunday to act as extras in a film about hockey commentator Don Cherry.

Dressed up in old fur coats and fancy hats, to simulate a hockey crowd in the 1950's, some travelled hours for the far-from-guaranteed chance to appear on screen.

"I want to work in the film industry and I thought being an extra would be an easy thing to start with," said Zachary Cordell, 26, who travelled nine hours by bus from Thompson, Man., and showed up in a bowler hat and charcoal vest.

"I got a notice ... on Thursday and I threw everything together to come down here."

Standing nearby was the McKelvie family, who drove up from Winnipeg after scrounging up dark overcoats, an old derby hat and a mink stole for mother, Susan.

"I went to a friend of my Mom's, who's 90 years old, and I got the coat and the fur and the hat and the gloves," she said.

"Some came out of our own closets and thrift stores, that sort of thing."

The Selkirk arena is doubling as two rinks Cherry played in during his career in the American Hockey League in the 1950's and '60's, following a one-game stint with the NHL's Boston Bruins. The low-tech barn-style building is a natural fit.

"It's a fairly generic space and ... it's not over the top. You don't have electronics flying around the entire area every time a goal is scored," joked Selkirk Mayor David Bell.

The movie, "Keep Your Head Up Kid: The Don Cherry Story," is expected to air next year on the CBC as a four-hour mini-series. The script was written by Tim Cherry, Don's son, who also serves as executive producer.

Known for his loud tirades and even louder clothing on his "Coach's Corner" TV segment of Hockey Night In Canada, Cherry has managed to attract both a devoted fan base and a number of critics who accuse him of promoting fighting and bashing Quebec and European hockey players.

"Don always has a knack for arguing, but hey, that's just him," said extra-in-waiting Aaron McKelvie.

The film will reportedly include dramatizations of Cherry's boyhood in Kingston, Ont., and follow his hockey career through the minor leagues and as a coach with the Boston Bruins.

It stars Jared Keeso as Don Cherry and Sarah Manninen as Rose Cherry. Other scenes are being shot in Winnipeg and Brandon, Man.

The TV shoot is nothing new for Selkirk, a city of 9,500 that has managed to attract more than its share of film work. Many scenes in "Capote", the Hollywood movie that won an Oscar for lead actor Philip Seymour-Hoffman, were shot in Selkirk, as was "New In Town", a recent film featuring Renee Zellweger.

"We really go out of our way to try to make life easy for people who are coming to this community to make movies," Bell said.

"Hey, if you can do something and garner some publicity out of it, that's great."

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