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WARMINGTON

Don Cherry dumps on Brent Sutter's pan of Canadian hockey 0

By Joe Warmington, Toronto Sun

Don Cherry (QMI AGENCY PHOTO)

Don Cherry (QMI AGENCY PHOTO)

If you want to see Don Cherry upset, just insult Canadian kids who play hockey.

The Canadian hockey icon dropped the gloves to defend Canada’s minor hockey players and coaches Monday — just a day after Team Canada’s coach Brent Sutter suggested hockey development in the country isn’t what it used to be.

Cherry said he still can’t believe a Canadian coach would say something like that, let alone one with a last name Sutter.

“He threw the people in Canadian minor hockey under the bus,” a spirited Cherry said Monday. “I cannot believe Brent Sutter said it — but he did.”

Sutter’s closing words about Canada’s disappointing fourth-place tournament finish in Sweden to the Toronto Sun’s Terry Koshan riled up the star of Coach’s Corner.

“There’s too much focus on winning and losing at such a young age, and not enough about the skill part of it,” Sutter told Koshan. “That’s truly where it starts. At 16, 17 when they hit the Canadian Hockey League, there should already be a standard of skill already in place.”

Too much focus on winning?

Cherry was not amused.

However Sutter, coach and GM of the Western Hockey League’s Red Deer Rebels, went further saying import Europeans to Canada’s junior leagues “are top-end players” with strong “skating” and “skills” thanks in part because “development starts at peewee age, at bantam age, at 10 years of age.”

To say Cherry doesn’t concur with the losing Team Canada juniors coach — one of the famous Sutter family from Viking, Alta., which has produced eight NHLers out of the Canadian hockey system — is putting it softly.

“He’s a great coach but I expected more from him,” Cherry said in an interview. “To put this loss on the pee wee coaches is just not fair in as far as I am concerned.”

In fact, he said, the player development is not the reason at all.

And he pointed to the Toronto Sun sports pages for proof — and the 2013-14 NHL scoring race.

Sidney Crosby, 63, Patrick Kane, 54, Ryan Getzlaf, 48, Joe Thornton, 48, Chris Kunitz, 47, Nicklas Backstrom, 46, Patrick Sharp, 46, John Tavares, 46, Jonathan Toews and Corey Perry — both 44.

“Nine of the top 10 leading goal scorers in the NHL are from the Canadian development system so there must be something right about it,” said Cherry.

Eight are Canadian born and American Kane is an alumnus of the OHL’s London Knights.

“The grass roots talent is there,” insisted Grapes. “I see it all the time in the rinks.”

And he felt compelled to defend them and their coaches.

“Brent should have said he was proud of the kids who tried their best and that is it,” said Cherry, adding he doesn’t think Team Canada players have anything to feel bad about in terms of their effort or in where they come from.

“We don’t need a hockey summit,” said Cherry. “We have great hockey players.”

Cherry Monday, on Coach’s Corner and even before the tournament began, highlighted what he saw as the problem.

“They didn’t take the country’s best players,” he said. “I blame Hockey Canada for that.”

Citing a politically-correct selection process, Cherry said, there was more emphasis on regionalism and league politics — which is proven as there are three Ontario Hockey League stars not on the team.

“Max Domi for London has 57 points in just 33 games and is scoring at almost two points a game,” said Cherry. “Darnell Nurse for the Soo Greyhounds is a 6-foot-5 giant. Only one guy in Team Canada was drafted higher.”

As for not getting to the gold medal game, Cherry said it came down to scoring.

“They couldn’t score on the power play against Russia and they needed a goal and they had the OHL scoring leader Connor Brown from the Erie Otters at home,” said Cherry. “He has 76 points, was not even invited to camp.”

Cherry said from now on “if the 20 best players are from Quebec, take them or take 20 from the Western Hockey League or OHL if they are the best.”

Just don’t water it down with a quota system.

“Certainly what they have been doing is not working,” said Cherry.

Hockey Canada did not return a request for comment but Sutter told Koshan he believes there’s a systemic problem at the minor level.

“I still can’t believe Brent said this,” said Cherry. “It doesn’t sound like a Sutter.”

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