Keep Your Head Up, Kid: The Don Cherry Story

Admittedly I am not the biggest Don Cherry fan out there. Actually I pretty much hate the guy and what he stands for. I can't even watch him with his redneck, racist, pro-Toronto ways – even if it is only an act for television and ratings. After watching this DVD my opinion of the man and my respect for his wife Rose grew quite significantly.

Don Cherry, like many young Canadian boys, wished to become a professional hockey player. He was a talented junior player in his native Kingston, Ontario. Rugged defenceman Cherry (Jared Keeso – I Love You, Beth Cooper, Smokin' Aces 2) is scouted by the Boston Bruins and is even called up to play one Stanley Cup playoff game with them versus the mighty Montreal Canadiens. Though the Bruins lose to the Habs Cherry makes enough of an impression that the Bruins tell him that they want him in training camp with them next season. They also warn him not to play baseball during the summer.

Thinking (or maybe not thinking) he is invincible, Cherry plays, which the gods don't look on too kindly, and ends up seriously injuring his shoulder. It does not heal before training camp begins. The Bruins find out that he has disregarded their request and injured himself. Plus they see that he cannot really play up to his usual standards, so they send him down to the minors.

While Cherry thinks that their anger is momentary he spends sixteen seasons in the minors and never gets another shot at the NHL. Playing for his first team in the AHL, the Hershey Bears, he meets his future wife Rose (Sarah Manninen – The Prince & Me). They are married and have two kids. Rose follows Don around North America, including stops in Trois-Rivieres, Springfield, Massachusetts and Tulsa, Oklahoma, without ever complaining.

After sixteen seasons Don realizes that he will never make the NHL and retires. He works as a construction worker and even sells Cadillacs for a spell, but nothing is hockey and he is unhappy. Finally he decides that maybe coaching is the way to go. Cherry begins by coaching a high school team then moves on to the AHL to coach the Rochester Americans. His success there captures the attention of Harry Sinden, general manager of the Boston Bruins. In 1974 Cherry is hired to coach the Boston Bruins – he has finally made it to the NHL.

Originally this aired as a two-part mini-series on CBC and was nominated for 7 Gemini Awards. Despite the fact that this is a Canadian production and that usually means low production values, etc. I enjoyed the story about this hockey legend.

What was most marking about the mini-series was all that I learned about the man behind the legend. Yes, he is a tough, flamboyant and stubborn man, but he was also loyal, dedicated and passionate about hockey.

The depiction of Cherry's relationship with his wonderful wife Rose is touching and really lets the viewer see the love between the two. It really was a partnership as she supported him through thick and thin. Cherry definitely would not have attained the success he did without his wife. The onscreen chemistry between Jared Keeso and Sarah Manninen really makes the film. You see, feel and believe the love between the two and that is really the film for me. Hockey is just the backdrop.

Special Features:
-Interviews with Don Cherry, Jared Keeso, Sarah Manninen and Jeff Woolnough

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