Don Cherry turns 80 today; here’s his debut in THN at 21

Brian Costello
Boston Bruins

Happy birthday to the world’s latest octogenarian.

Don Cherry turns 80 today.

Hard to believe hockey’s most colorful personality was once an unheralded minor leaguer trying his darndest to make the NHL back in the 1950s and ’60s.

Here are the first two stories The Hockey News published on the 5-foot-11, 180-pound defenseman who was in his first season with the American League’s Hershey Bears.

 

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Lanny & the Moose headline AJHL’s all-time 50 best players

Brian Costello
2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic Alumni Game Two

The Alberta Jr. Hockey League turns the magical 50 this season and the folks did an online poll to determine the top 50 players who passed through its doors.

It’s a fascinating list of prairie boys, many of whom went on to star in the NHL. Mark Messier (Spruce Grove Mets) and Lanny McDonald (Lethbridge Sugar Kings) made it to the Hockey Hall of Fame. The AJHL broke down the top 50 list into five decade groups of 10 players apiece. Voters were encouraged to base their selection on their accomplishments in both the AJHL and NHL.

Forty-three players from the top 50 played in the NHL. Eight of them won Stanley Cups. Thirteen of the 50 are still active in the NHL I personally got to see most of the first two decade all-stars play when I was growing up in Alberta. Most of the latter three decade all-stars I’ve watched play in the NHL.

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Before I Made It: Dustin Jeffrey

The Hockey News
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With Kevin Kennedy
Played my first hockey at Mooretown Arena, which is in my hometown, about 45 minutes south of Sarnia, Ontario. I’m the youngest of three boys and my older brothers were all playing hockey so I just figured it was the thing to do. I just tried to do whatever they did.

My dad coached my older two brothers, but he was never my coach. They were only a year apart in age so they just played on the same team, so it made sense for him to coach that team. He helped out on a couple of my teams, but I think he liked not being the head coach. When you have one of your parents as the coach there always seems to be more drama and politics and he kind of liked being on the sidelines for my team.

There were two coaches that really helped me when I was younger, Billy Smith and Derek Dimuzio. I had great junior coaches as well, like Craig Hartsburg, but those were the two when I was growing up that really had a good impression on me. Read more

Before I Made It: Brad Stuart

The Hockey News
stuart

With Kevin Kennedy

I didn’t start playing hockey until I was about seven years old and still remember the day I came home and told my dad I wanted to play. This was back in my hometown of Rocky Mountain Top, Alberta, and a bunch of my friends were already playing and I felt left out. A couple of days after I spoke to my dad, he came home with a box full of hockey equipment and the rest is history.

One big minor hockey moment for me would be when we won the peewee ‘AA’ Provincials in Alberta. It was huge for us because we were such a small town and to do that was a big deal. I still remember there was a store that had a big banner hanging outside congratulating us. That was something I’ll always remember and I still have buddies back home from that team and we’ll still talk about it every once in a while.

I had two coaches that had a real positive impact on my career; Frank Walton and Henry Laroque. I still see them every now and then and I know that anybody who played for them, really benefited from their commitment to the game.

My hometown hockey program only went up to ‘AA’ so I had to leave when I was 14 to go play ‘AAA’ in Red Deer. I was pretty lucky because my grandparents lived out there so I just stayed with them and it was only about 45 minutes from my hometown. After that I went to Regina to play junior.

I had lots of different jobs growing up. I was a paperboy when I was 11 delivering the daily paper and that was a tough grind for sure. When I was 16 got a job at Husky Oil through their summer work program. Pretty much just 9-5 labour work, but I was able to save up some money.

Back then, I was into music and loved being outdoors, these days when I’m not playing hockey I’m really getting in to new tech stuff and I love working with computers. As I’ve gotten older I’ve also really gotten into cooking which has been fun.

I started really thinking that playing in the NHL was a possibility in my first year of junior when I would hear about scouts coming to watch the games. That was an eye opener for me. Fast forward a few years and I’m sitting in Buffalo for the draft. I was rated pretty high so I knew I was going to go early and I knew San Jose was in particular pretty interested and they had the second pick. They traded down to get the third pick and by then I knew where I was going. I played my first game in the first game of the ’99 season after I made the team out of camp. I ended up scoring in the first period in my first game and my defence partner was Gary Suter. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Before I Made It: Cal Clutterbuck

The Hockey News
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With Kevin Kennedy
I grew up in Welland, Ontario and played my first game in the local youth hockey arena. I played there all the way up until I got drafted to the OHL and had to move to Toronto. Growing up, it wasn’t just about hockey; I was also in to baseball, golf and volleyball, but after around 16 when I got drafted, it was all hockey. I’d say that both my parents are responsible for getting me into hockey since my dad was always with me at the rink and because my mom took me out skating a lot when I was really young.

As a teenager, I worked at Sport Chek part-time for a bit in Niagara Falls and I also worked as a call center operator for MasterCard when I was around 17 or 18 years old. Read more

Before I Made It: Jake Gardiner

The Hockey News
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With Kevin Kennedy
I played my first hockey at the Hopkins Pavilion in my hometown of Hopkins, Minnesota. The game I remember wasn’t our first game, but I know we were in Myte and it was a game between the two rep teams from our town and they did a light show for all of us and played the “Final Countdown” when we came on the ice. They introduced all of us over the loud speaker and everything. That was the coolest.

There was also this one tournament we’d go to all the time in Fargo, North Dakota and that was always really fun. We’d bus there and all the kids would be in the back and the parents would be in the front. I remember messing around and playing mini sticks in the hotel. It’s an awesome memory. Read more

Before I Made It: Troy Bodie

The Hockey News
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With Kevin Kennedy
First time I ever skated was pretty much right after I learned how to stand on my own two feet. My parents strapped on skates and flooded the front yard and that was it. I’ve seen photos of me pushing around a stool back in my hometown of High Bluff, Manitoba. Read more