Former Prime Minister Jean Chretien tries a sample of a new local beer called the Shawinigan Handshake at the inauguration of a museum show casing the gifts he received during his term Friday, April 13, 2012 in Shawinigan, Que. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
SHAWINIGAN, Que. - Don Cherry is about to get throttled by Jean Chretien's ''Shawinigan handshake.''
An illustration of Chretien choking the hockey personality will grace the label of a microbrew beer named after the ex-PM's notorious stranglehold.
Chretien said Friday the image will resemble the famous photo of him grabbing protester Bill Clennett by the throat in 1996.
The move was dubbed the "Shawinigan handshake"—after Chretien's Quebec hometown.
He said that in the days after the incident Cherry publicly supported him on Hockey Night in Canada for, literally, taking matters into his own hands.
With that in mind, Chretien said he recently invited the TV hockey analyst to be featured on the label of a beer that will be released during next month's Memorial Cup—in Shawinigan.
"Don Cherry had loved it that I grabbed a protester by the neck," Chretien said with pride.
"So I said, 'It's your turn, you will be the victim of that,' and he has accepted (the invitation).
"So, on the label of the beer it will be Chretien grabbing Don Cherry by the neck."
Chretien made the comments in Shawinigan, where he held a news conference to unveil an upcoming museum exhibit that will feature gifts he received while he was prime minister.
His choke hold, meanwhile, remains legendary in the town, said the microbrewer who will produce the Cherry-Chretien suds.
"It's been 16 years now (since the Shawinigan handshake), so it's kind of a folk tale," said Isaac Tremblay, co-owner of Le Trou du Diable (The Devil's Hole) microbrewery and pub.
"There's nothing political about it at all. It's about having a great person from Shawinigan who always kept Shawinigan in his heart.
"Jean Chretien is also a person with a keen sense of humour and a person that is very fun to have a beer with."
Tremblay said his small company has been producing the Shawinigan Handshake beer in honour of Chretien for three years.
Unfortunately, it will be difficult for beer drinkers to wrap their hands around one of the special bottles, since the microbrewery only has the capacity to produce 1,500 bottles at a time. Tremblay noted the production facility is undergoing an expansion.
The current label for the beer features Chretien choking a devil made in the likeness of Tremblay.
The microbrewer said he almost never agrees with Cherry's in-your-face opinions, but he thought the label would be fun.
Tremblay hopes others, including Clennett, also see the lighter side of the labels.
Clennett's confrontation with Chretien came only months after the prime minister had been shaken up by a brush with a would-be assassin who broke into 24 Sussex wielding a knife.
While making his way through a crowd, the sunglasses-wearing Chretien saw a protester closing in on him, so he choked him with both hands.
The grimacing Chretien tossed Clennett to the ground, damaging his dental work.
Chretien has been milking the story ever since.
He's often drawn laughs by pretending to unleash the Shawinigan handshake on unsuspecting victims. He surprised then-Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff as a joke during a 2010 photo op.