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Don Cherry on the Tragically Hip 
By
Editorial Staff

Published

August 18, 2016

Genre

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The national celebration of the Tragically Hip's Man Machine Poem tour, to be held in Kingston, Ont., on Saturday, Aug. 20, will be a momentous time for Canadians, and CBC will be there to broadcast it to the whole country, commercial-free, across our television, radio and digital platforms, including CBC Music's app via Apple or Android. For details, head to cbcmusic.ca/thehip.

In the lead-up to the event, Talia Schlanger will be on the road, starting from Horseshoe Tavern to Bobcaygeon to K-Rock, to talk to celebrated Canadians about how the Hip has impacted their lives, and share stories and reflections on the band.

Below, Don Cherry talks about his relationship with the Tragically Hip and their love for hockey.

What The Hip means to hockey

"I've known them for a long time. My brother actually knew them before anybody. [Gord Downie] was born in Amherstview. That's where my brother lived and he used to see them out playing road hockey when they were kids. I've known them, my family has known them for quite a while.

"First of all, [Downie] wears the Boston Bruins sweater all the time, which I love. Harry Sinden ... was the coach of the '72 [Team] Canada, and he was the coach [in Boston]. [Downie] is the [godson] of Harry! So I sort of have a connection there. Harry was quite proud of that, after he got famous and everything. Being the [godson] of the guy that won the '72, the greatest series of all time, really means something and I know it means something to Gordie too!

"Bill Barilko! I was playing junior when they happened. 'Fifty Mission Cap": that was for all the guys that flew overseas — 50 missions, it was a honour to them. Bill Barilko, he scored the winning goal, I remember, against Gerry McNeil. I can't tell you how famous he was at the time. He was the guy scoring goals. Only six teams back then and that was it. Toronto Maple Leafs, there was nothing like the Toronto Maple Leafs, then and now. He scored the winning goal. He was the hero of all hockey and for him to take off to go fishing and ... his mother said 'Don't go.' She didn't talk to him before he took off and she regretted that and she was with Dr. Hudson and they didn't find him til they won the cup again. He mentions Bobby Orr, I could go on. He's a hockey guy all the way."

Gord Downie's suits during the Man Machine Poem tour

"Gordie! I see, he looks like me out there. He figured out that he is going in a blaze of glory. The last tour that he is having. He looks like a million bucks. I love those hats. I never thought about those hats with those feathers in them and everything. He looks good. Him and I, good Kingston guys — we all look sharp!"

Introducing the Hip, Gord pre-show

"I think I was the first guy to introduce them there at Hershey Centre and we got there early. I suppose that we shouldn't have and we were having fun and talking. I noticed Gordie. He was the guy, he had a black curtain in the back — he would be out and be gracious and talk to us and everything like that — but he went back and he was preparing himself because he is the lead singer, he's got to perform. I'm not knocking the other guys and they do great, but he is the guy that has to perform. I noticed that he'd go back and he'd think a little while, take about 15 to 20 minutes, then come out to say 'Hello.' He was ready then I went out to introduce them."

Don on 'The Darkest One'

"I thought that was the best one. I think that Gordie looked more like Gordie back then. He had the toque on, the beer, he's smoking and what happened was, they're stealing an engine out of a truck and they were payment and I was the guy delivering, I remember — you can't believe how cold it was that night! I didn't know how we ever stood it. I drove in an old Pacer, we had to guide it down. The cats ate all the chicken and I had to come back and the Trailer Park Boys' Bubbles — he was great, we were knocking each other all around. I was quite thrilled to be in it. It really was. That's my favourite."

Gord like a goaltender

"He was a goalie. You can have the greatest team in the world, but if you don't have a goaltender, you don't have nothing! He knows pressure. He was a goaltender growing up. I think the lead singer is the same as the goaltender. If the lead singer isn't good, forget it! He knows how to prepare."

The Hip on the road for this tour

"It must be something. It is something, like Bobby Orr. We didn't know at the time, but Bobby Orr had to retire at 28 years old. Greatest hockey player that ever lived. It is sort of the same thing. They're going out on top. It's sad to say going out, but let's face it: it's supposed to be their last; Kingston is their last. It's sad. I should be happy and everything, but I'm very sad. I'm very sad in the same way as when Bobby Orr didn't come and play. I don't know what it's going to be like. It's going to be something in that building to see their last — it's really going to be tough."

What the Hip mean to Kingston

"Kingston — they named a street after them, right around the K-Rock right there — the Tragically Hip. I love it when he sings about Kingston, about the speedway, my hometown and that's a big thing of why people like him so much. He wasn't like the Canadian singers and I'm not knocking them, they go down to the States, the only time they come back to Canada is to make money. You look at all the cities and like Stompin' Tom Connors, you know he was loved. I think that is what Canadians like. They like that he is a Canadian and he makes no bones that he is a Canadian. He doesn't go down to the States and make all the money. He's Canadian, like Stompin' Tom, he is our guy."

Favourite album by the Hip

"Fully Completely. If you're going to Kingston and you want to put an album on, that is the one that I'd put on. But to me, the one with 'The Darkest One' on it — that's my favourite and I think you know why."